We’re not sure how you can reduce an entire island’s worth of wildlife to a Top 10, but who are we to argue? If someone says these are the animals you must see on your next visit to Maui, and accepted the Herculean task of examining every species and subspecies from Upoa Point to Hana Bay in order to reach an informed conclusion, we won’t ask why not a single even-toed ungulate made the list. Please read on to learn more about Maui’s Top 10 animals and why it probably wasn’t a good idea to introduce a diurnal predator (the mongoose) to combat a nocturnal pest (the rat). So, without further ado, we share with you Hawaii’s Top 10 animals for you to discover on your next vacation to Maui Beach Vacation Club in beautiful south Maui.
#1 Sea Turtles
Swimming with green sea turtles is a hugely popular activity among tourists, so it should come as no surprise that these cute, curmudgeonly creatures nabbed the top spot as Hawaii’s favorite animal.
#2 Humpback Whales
Many visitors schedule their Hawaii vacation to coincide with the return of the humpback whales to the islands from December through April. Each year these fascinating creatures, around 10,000 strong, make the long trek from Alaska to the warm waters around Hawaii to give birth and nurse their young. Maui, home to beautiful Sands of Kahana Resort, enjoys its rank as the prime whale watching spot in Hawaii.
#3 Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins
Who doesn’t love a dolphin? Grabbing the third spot on this list of Hawaii’s 10 favorite animals is the Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin, so named because of their ability to leap spectacularly out of the water and make as many as four complete spins in the air. Spinner dolphins can usually be spotted resting in shallow areas like South Maui’s La Perouse Bay during the morning before moving farther offshore to feed in the afternoon. Another popular hangout is off the coast of Lanai, where huge schools of spinner dolphins are seen regularly.
We’re not sure how the mongoose managed to beat out the Hawaiian monk seal (the state’s official state mammal) and manta rays for fourth on this list when they were basically brought to the island by mistake, albeit with the best of intentions to reduce an exploding rat population. The problem? Mongoose are active in the daytime while rats are active at night, so while the rats continued on their merry way destroying crops and sugarcane fields, the mongoose turned their attention to birds and bird eggs, endangering native bird populations in the process. We suppose they’re kinda cute in a
#5 Nene Goose
The state bird since 1957, the Nene goose can be found on Hawaii’s Big Island, Kauai, and Maui. While Nene geese are known to mate for life and honk like a car, there is no hard evidence to prove a cause and effect. While the largest population can be seen in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, the Nene goose can also be seen on the summit of Maui’s Haleakala Volcano.
#6 Hawaiian Monk Seal
The official state mammal of Hawaii, the monk seal is endangered owing to a number of factors, including habitat loss, disease, and human harassment. Currently there are fewer than 1,100 Hawaiian Monk Seals left in existence. It is a felony to visit harm on a Hawaiian Monk Seal, and many organizations throughout the islands are doing their best to keep this highly endangered species alive and well. Hawaiian Monk Seals are rarely seen due to their diminished numbers, but can occasionally be spotted basking on sandy beaches during the daytime. For more on the Hawaiian Monk Seal, see the addendum below.
With their ability to blend into their surroundings, seeing this invasive creature in the wild can be very difficult. That makes it all the more thrilling when you do! Look for chameleons in Maui’s Upcountry areas in forested areas, orchards and yard hedges.
#8 Hoary Bats
Hoary Bats are so named because of their grayish white appearance, not because they are old and trite (the second definition for hoary in Webster’s). Declared an endangered species as a precaution as far back as 1970, hoary bats are most often seen in groups over harbors and forests on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. They are sometimes confused with their close relative, the Hairy Bat.
#9 Manta Rays
We think manta rays have been given criminally short shrift on this list of 10. In fact, we’re willing to move them all the way up to fourth, behind only the green sea turtle, humpback whale and spinner dolphin. There is simply no possible world in which the mongoose, Nene goose, chameleon and hoary bat outrank the majestic manta ray, which can grow up to 30 feet wide and are known for their friendly disposition. They also lack a stinger, making them much less intimidating than smaller ray species. Night diving with manta rays in the coastal waters off the Big Island is an unforgettable experience. On Maui, your greatest chances of seeing manta rays is at Olowalu, the largest and healthiest reef around Maui and location of the fourth largest manta ray resident population in the world. Home to over 350 manta rays, this is the perfect area for snorkeling or scuba diving on your next trip.
Sharks play a vital role in the health of marine ecosystems and are highly respected in Hawaiian culture. There are currently around 40 species of sharks found in the Hawaiian waters, eight of which are commonly seen near shore, including whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, sandbar sharks, scalloped hammerheads, and tiger sharks. Maui Ocean Center’s Shark Dive Maui gives certified scuba divers the opportunity to bravely dive with more than 20 sharks in a giant 750,000 gallon tank. For those of you who would rather steer clear of them, remember to always swim with a buddy, don’t go out in murky conditions and stay away from areas where there is water runoff or fishing boats. Although Hawaii has received its fair share of negative publicity when it comes to sharks, remember that most attacks are simply a case of mistaken identity.
Hawaiian monk seal rests on the shore near Maui Beach Vacation Club in south Maui to the delight of onlookers
We’re not sure what Hawaiian monk seals do for a living, but if the photo of this one are any indication, it probably doesn’t pay very well. Recently we got a glimpse of Hawaii’s Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, or “dog that runs in rough water,” chilling on the shore near Maui Beach Vacation Club in scenic south Maui. It spent roughly eight hours, or the equivalent of a fulltime job, sleeping, lounging and barking in the sand. Minimum wage notwithstanding, it sounds like a great job!