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Get to Know Hawaiian Wildlife in Oʻahu
April 23 ,2024

When you visit Oʻahu, you’ll have a chance to see some fantastic wildlife. As one of the world’s tropical paradises, Hawaii boasts many species you won’t find anywhere else! In fact, Hawaii is home to over 25,000 unique species, making it one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. 


We’re proud to be surrounded by truly one-of-a-kind natural beauty. Whether you’re on one of Oʻahu’s best hikes, exploring the North Shore, or giving back with ecotourism in the spirit of mālama, chances are good you’ll see some of our famous animal residents. Oʻahu’s wildlife isn’t just fascinating; it’s incredibly photogenic, so make sure to pack your camera to capture these unforgettable encounters.    


Read on for a guide to Oʻahu’s fascinating wildlife, from acrobatic dolphins and colorful birds to gentle giants of the sea.

Delightful Dolphins


Spinner dolphins underwater in blue ocean


Your visit to Oʻahu gives you the opportunity to get up close to some of nature’s most social and intelligent creatures: spinner dolphins! These acrobatic stars are the island’s most common dolphin species, putting on dazzling athletic displays as they leap and twist out of the water with the grace of figure skaters. Oʻahu’s pristine coastline is a playground for these wild dolphins.


For your best chance of encountering spinner dolphins, set sail on an aquatic adventure with Dolphins and You. A quick shuttle will whisk you from Waikiki to Oʻahu’s West Coast, where your expert guides will lead a thrilling dolphin cruise. With a 90 percent chance of spotting these playful aquatic mammals, you’ll create memories to last a lifetime. And the adventure doesn’t stop there! After your dolphin encounter, dive in and snorkel around a vibrant coral reef teeming with colorful fish, turtles, and the possibility of encountering manta rays or even whales.


Birds of Paradise


Bright yellow Hawaiian Amakihi. This is a very rare endemic finch species that only lives in Hawaii


Colorful birds abound in Oʻahu, a fantastic destination for birdwatching enthusiasts or anyone who appreciates the beauty of nature’s many colorful critters. Oʻahu is home to nearly 200 distinct bird species, and 16 of them are native to the island. You might spot beautiful golden ʻamakihi, strikingly red ʻapapane, magnificent frigatebirds, and many more. 


For an even better chance of seeing these amazing animals, consider booking a tour with a local expert. Oahu Nature Tours, based in Honolulu, offers guided adventures to help you discover these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. As proud members of the Hawaiian Audubon Society and Conservation Council for Hawaii, Oahu Nature Tours focuses on “conservation through education,” ensuring the island’s birds and their habitats are protected and respected. 


Hawaii’s Famous Honu


Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Basking in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean


Honu, native Hawaiian sea turtles, are a cherished symbol of Oʻahu’s beauty. You can find them on the island’s beaches and warm coastal waters. These gentle giants, which can reach weights over 300 pounds, love to lounge on shore and warm themselves in the Hawaiian sunshine. 


Hoping to spot some honu during your Oʻahu visit? Head to Laniakea Beach, also known as “Turtle Beach,” on the North Shore (about 33 miles from Prince Waikiki). Summer offers the best chance to catch a glimpse, with peak hours between 11 am and 3 pm. Here, you can watch these gentle giants basking on the shore or swimming gracefully in the ocean. While Laniakea is a popular spot, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any turtles. The beautiful sunshine and ocean views are worth the trip, regardless!


Sadly, these magnificent turtles are a threatened species. To ensure their survival for future generations, please observe them with respect from at least 10 feet away.


Wonderful Whales


A breaching Humpback whale leaping out of the water in the Pacific Ocean around the islands of Hawaii.


With so much incredible coastline and ocean to explore, Oʻahu is an ideal place to embark on a whale-watching excursion. Humpback whales, known as koholā in Hawaii, make regular appearances in the waters surrounding Oʻahu, particularly in the winter months. From May to December, these spectacular gentle giants come to the warm Hawaiian waters to give birth to their calves. 


Oʻahu boasts a variety of whale-watching tours led by experienced captains who navigate the waters with expertise, ensuring close encounters with these majestic mammals while maintaining a safe distance. Embark on an unforgettable adventure and witness humpback whales breaching and splashing in their natural habitat! 


Prefer to stay land-based? There are plenty of places near Prince Waikiki where you might have spouting whales in the distance. Try the Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail (14 miles away) for panoramic views, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (10 miles away) for a scenic backdrop, or Diamond Head Beach Park (just 4 miles away) for convenient wildlife-watching.


Hawaii’s Own Monk Seals


A beached Hawaiian Monk Seal rests on the south end of the famous Waikiki beach.


Seals may not be the first creature that comes to mind when you picture Hawaii — you might imagine them hanging out in frigid waters and riding ice floes — but Hawaii has its own species of native monk seals! In fact, the Hawaiian monk seal you might spot in Oʻahu is found nowhere else on the planet. 


One of the most popular places to see monk seals is Kaena Point State Park, a gorgeous 46-mile drive up the west coast of the island from Prince Waikiki. The park offers incredible hiking opportunities with trails that provide spectacular views of the ocean waves and plenty of places to spot wildlife beyond the monk seals, including birds like albatrosses. Unfortunately, monk seals are considered endangered, with an estimated 1,500 seals remaining in the wild according to NOAA Fisheries. Make sure to keep at least 10 feet away and respect their habitat.


Tips for Respecting Oʻahu’s Wildlife


With great access comes great responsibility! Always remember to respect the wild nature of all of Hawaii’s creatures and avoid disturbing their habitat. Hawaiian wildlife is just that — wild! And we want to make sure it stays that way, for your safety and the safety of the many beautiful animals that call this island home. Please never attempt to touch or feed any of Oʻahu’s animals, and always keep a respectful distance. Many species in Hawaii are threatened or endangered, so protecting them will allow future generations to enjoy these wonderful sights for years to come. 


Tips for Safe Exploration


View of the sunrise from Hanauma Hike on Oahu, Hawaii.


Oʻahu’s sunshine and beauty are legendary, but so is the heat! Stay cool and safe on your outdoor adventures by packing plenty of water and sun protection. Before you hit the trails, do some research to choose a hike that matches your skill level. Oʻahu offers hikes for everyone, so pick one that lets you enjoy the scenery without pushing your limits or taking unnecessary risks.


Plan Your Wildlife-Spotting Excursion at Prince Waikiki


Ready to embark on your own wildlife-spotting adventure in Oahu? Explore our vacation packages, offers, and promotions and start planning your getaway to Hawaii’s natural beauty. 

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