Updated: December 2017
Maui Ocean Center AquariumPart of the thrill of taking a vacation to Maui is getting to enjoy the tropical flora and fauna. The crystal blue water teeming with fish and sea creatures beckons -- grab your snorkel or scuba gear and hop in the water! Visitors are always amazed by the variety of colorful fish they can spot when they are swimming. But it can be difficult for small children to snorkel or see tropical fish under water. A great way for everyone to get up close to Maui's ocean creatures is to visit the Maui Ocean Center. This island mini-aquarium has been open since 1998, and it lets visitors see coral, sharks, turtles, rays, and all kinds of fish -- all without getting wet. All the animals on display are native to the Hawaiian islands, so you are getting a genuine experience when you visit (no penguins!). The center has become so popular it gets nearly a half million visitors per year. In this guide we will take a look at what you can see and do at the aquarium, how much tickets cost and how you can get a discount, how long you should spend there, and more.
Visiting the Maui Ocean CenterPlanning a trip to the Maui Ocean Center is pretty easy. We recommend visiting during the hottest hours of the day (around 12-2) to get a break from the Maui sun (although part of it is outdoors, most exhibits are indoors) -- or visit on one of those rare days when it rains and you need to stay inside. Regardless, the Center is open every day of the year from 9-5 (in July and August they stay open an hour later, until 6PM). The Center is located in Wailuku, right by the Ma'alaea Harbor (where the roads to Lahaina and Kihei meet). The address is 192 Ma'alaea Road. Their official website is MauiOceanCenter.com. How much are tickets to the Maui Ocean Center? For adults, tickets cost $24, while children tickets go for $17 (3-12, under 3 free). Yes, the tickets are a little expensive, but if you are an AAA member you can get a discount ($20 instead of $24).
This is a relatively small aquarium -- you can probably see everything you want to in 1 or 2 hours. You can see a map of the Maui Ocean Center here. If you go around lunch time, consider eating at the Seascape Ma'alaea Restaurant - try the fish tacos or the ahi sandwich. Food is good and the ocean view is even better -- this is Maui after all! So what is there to see here? The Center offers more than 60 exhibits, from tide pools, jellyfish tanks, living coral reefs, and the popular turtle lagoon, where you can watch green sea turtles in action. The reef exhibits are fascinating, it really is better than snorkeling being able to see so many different creatures close up. The Hammerhead Harbor is also cool - I've never seen hammerhead sharks before, and watching them swim is quite an experience. Most people like walking through the acrylic tunnel that goes under the massive 750,000 gallon tank - you feel yourself surrounded by water on all sides, and it almost feels like you are under water. If you're lucky, you'll get to see divers cruising around with the sharks, rays, and fish (see below). Stop and take a seat inside the tunnel and just enjoy the view for 10 minutes.
Kids of course love going to an aquarium, and they won't be disappointed with the MOC. Parents have been known to complain that the tickets are overpriced - that's debatable, since everything on Maui could be considered to be overpriced. Overall, we recommend it as a way for smaller children to see the Hawaiian sealife up close, and almost everyone who goes enjoys it -- pretend like the tickets are only $15 each and just enjoy the sights!