Get to know your Hawaiian wildlife

Categorized as Hawaii Vacation Information

While there are certainly many breathtaking views and scenery you’ll encounter during your Hawaiian travels, it’s also important to keep in mind all the exotic and incredible species of animals you may come across. The islands of Hawaii are home to some of the world’s most beautiful animals, from colorful birds of the sky to massive creatures of the sea. Nature enthusiasts planning a stay at a Hawaiian vacation rental will be eager to know more about the wide diversity of species that call the islands home. Here are some of the more widely recognized and naturally stunning forms of wildlife native to Hawaii, as well as the best places to find these animals:


You never know what type of bird you’ll see soaring across the Hawaiian skies or nestled within the trees. Hawaii is a great place for bird watching enthusiasts, and even if you couldn’t distinguish a sparrow from a cardinal, you can still appreciate the diverse array of feathered friends that roam the islands.

According to the University of Hawaii, there are currently 66 native bird species living throughout the Hawaiian islands, and if you’re staying at a Kauai vacation rental, you’ll definitely want to check out the Hule’ia National Wildlife Refuge. This is the home of dozens of native Hawaiian birds, including many endangered ones, such as Hawaiian gallinules, Hawaiian coots and Koloa maolis, otherwise known as Hawaiian ducks.

The pueo is known as the Hawaiian owl, and is a bird that's etched into Hawaiian history and culture. The pueo is known as the Hawaiian owl, and is a bird that’s etched into Hawaiian history and culture.

You know you’re lucky if you can spot a pueo during your vacation, known as the Hawaiian owl and the inspiration behind Hawaiian mythology. Original settlers of Hawaii believed that the pueo represented the reincarnation of an ancestor or family god, and were considered to be a highly spiritual animal. Unfortunately, animal researchers identify the pueo to now be an endangered species. However, according to the Hawaii Audubon Society, taking a trip out to Puu Laau Road on the Big Island is an excellent place for spotting pueos in the nearby forests. This area is also considered to be a great source for seeing palilas flying in the air, which are a finch-billed species with golden heads and chests, that are also reportedly endangered.


Mammals are the most interesting representation of Hawaiian wildlife, mainly because there are so few authentic native species that spawned on the islands. Most of the other mammals you can encounter throughout Hawaii were brought in by Polynesian settlers, and there are only two types of mammals that are considered entirely native: the Hawaiian monk seal and the Hawaiian hoary bat. Hawaiian monk seals are just about as cute as they come, and while they’re more likely to roam through uninhabited coastlines, they are known to frequent the northwestern beaches of Kaua’i. As for Hawaiian hoary bats, don’t let its species scare you – watching these winged mammals soar during a sunset on the Big Island is always an unforgettable experience.

One of the more intriguing mammals you may come across during your stay on any of the islands is the small Asian mongoose, otherwise known as the Hawaiian squirrel. It’s highly likely that you’ll see these little critters scampering about no matter what island you’re on, and you’ll instantly identify them by their long, bushy tails.

Marine life

Of course, it’s the species that are under the surfaces of Hawaii that are essentially the most mesmerizing types of animals you can encounter during your Hawaii vacation. According to USA Today, there are more than 680 different species of sea fish and over 450 types of reef fish that are native to the Pacific Ocean waters surrounding the Hawaiian islands. This doesn’t even include one of the most magnificent animals living on our planet: whales.

Nothing is more breathtaking than seeing a Humpback whale in the wild! Nothing is more breathtaking than seeing a Humpback whale in the wild!

Whale watching is one of the most memorable experiences you can treat yourself to during your stay on Hawaii. From December to May, humpback whales make their annual migration from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii, which presents itself as the best time of the year to go out on a whale-watching excursion to see these majestic creatures in person. While all the islands have their own whale-watching tours to take part in, arguably the best places to catch these marine mammals is near the Auau Channel, a near 10-mile channel in the ocean that’s nudged between West Maui and Lanai. Taking a boat tour near this area will all but guarantee you a chance to watch a humpback whale jump through the surface and provide onlookers with a welcoming splash.

If you’re planning on getting in some pristine snorkeling time during your Hawaiian vacation, you’ll have nearly infinite options to choose from to swim past plenty of exotic marine life. Anyone who’s staying at a Oahu beach rental will need to make a trip out to Hanauma Bay, one of the most popular snorkeling destinations of all the islands and home to beautiful marine species ranging from parrot fish to cardinal fish to butterfly fish, as well as vibrantly stunning coral reef. On the Island of Hawaii, snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay is an absolute must. Typical snorkeling sessions will feature fishes of all sizes and colors, from the distinct stripes of a flame angelfish to the reptile-looking synodontidae, also known as the lizard fish. If there’s any way to experience the wonderful wildlife of Hawaii, it’s by going under water!