Ocean Wildlife

And Island Topography

Before heading out to snorkel Kauai's pristine waters, learn about some of the ocean wildlife that you'll encounter on your adventure.

Hawaii Fish and other Sea Creatures

Scroll through the wildlife above and match each creature to their Hawaiian name and description below. Take note of the depth where each sea critter lives so you'll know where to find them!

`Ilioholoikauaua (Hawaiian Monk Seal)
I have a large grey-brown body and a small head with a long snout and whiskers. After dining on fish and lobster I need to come ashore to digest and rest. Sometimes I sleep so deeply that people think I'm injured or even dead. Please don't bother me, I am vulnerable to predators until fully rested. If you get too close I might just rear up and "bark!"
Loli (Sea Cucumber)
I am brown and white speckled and you may mistake me for part of the reef! I am most comfortable in areas where heavy surge occurs and have very strong tube feet that I use to cling to the reef.
'Ala'ihi (Hawaiian Squirrelfish)
I am a small fish, usually red with silver stripes going from my mouth to my tail, I also have spiny dorsal fins. You'll see me around caves and crevices on coral reefs.
Kihikihi (Moorish Idol)
I have a narrow snout, yellow markings on my mid-body and a black tail. I also have two broad black bars vertically over the sides of my body. I usually hang out in groups of 3 to 5.
Puhi'oni'o (Whitemouth Moray Eel)
I am dangerous! I am brown with white spots all over my head and body and the inside of my mouth is white. I can be up to 3 1/2 feet long. I live in my puka (hole) in the reef at various depths.
Kikapapu (Raccoon Butterflyfish)
My main color is a dusky-yellow, I have a broad black bar bordered by a white bar over my eye, a black bar on my body and a black spot on the base of my tail. You'll see me hanging around shallow reefs or near steep drop-offs.
Humuhumunukunukuapua'a (Picasso Triggerfish)
I am the Hawaii state fish. I have blue lips, red spots at the base of my pectoral fins and golden triangle shaped lines at the rear of my body. You'll see me on shallow reefs.
Uhu (Palenose Parrotfish)
My body is pastel and I have distinct blue lines on my face and fins. I also have a yellow spot at the base of my tail. I can be seen at variety of depths and in habitats ranging from rich coral gardens to rubble areas.
Weke (Goatfish)
I can be identified by a pair of whiskers below my mouth. These are used to probe and 'taste' the bottom for small fish & invertebrates. I tend to hang in small groups for safety.
Nunu Peke (Cornetfish)
I have a elongated silver body and a whip-like tail. I am usually pale green but sometimes flash blue spots or lines. I like to hover above the reef.
Honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle)
My shell is a mottled dark brown on top and creamy white below, and it will often be covered in green algal growth. I can vary in size and weight up to 375 pounds!
Nai'a (Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin)
I am a small athletic dolphin that you may see in the same areas often, I hang out in large schools and enjoy jumping out the water and playing in the bow waves of boats.
Mano (Whitetip Reef Shark)
Stay away from me! You'll know me by the bright white tips on my dorsal and tail fins. You may see me resting on sand under ledges or in caverns or caves.
Kohola (Hawaiian Humpback Whale)
I am grayish-black in color, with varying degrees of white markings on my sides and ventral (underside). The black and white markings on the ventral side of my tail flukes are unique to me as an individual, like a human fingerprint.

Visit the Kauai snorkeling guide »

Recommended Snorkeling Beaches

Ready for a fun day of snorkeling on one of Kauai's beautiful beaches? Get ready for tropical fish, green sea turtles, colorful color and other ocean wildlife.

  • Ke'e Beach - A popular beach (yes it's crowded), the end of the road offers a protected lagoon teaming with tropical fish.
  • Makua (Tunnels) - Tunnels beach offers more privacy than Ke'e with similar ocean wildlife.
  • Poipu Beach Park - Not so many fish, but great for learning, Poipu beach is protected and lifeguarded.
  • Lydgate Beach Park - Lydgate is protected which makes it another great beach for beginners.
Comments (32 comments)   View all comments   

Hawaii lover | Jul 30, 2007 10:13AM

I am really looking forward to seeing all the beautiful wildlife and seeing all the views possible. This information has been help ful in some ways. So thank you very much for having such a [...] view more

Larry | Nov 10, 2007 6:34PM

As I walk the beaches and find pieces of coral washed up onto the shore, I wonder if I can pick these up and take them home. Is there any restriction?

Kauai Explorer Staff | Nov 11, 2007 7:45AM

Coral on the beach is like shells - OK to pick up and take with you. Please do not take live coral or shells from the reef. Also taking home rocks from Hawaii is believed to be bad luck.

tina marie | Mar 14, 2008 1:55PM

are there any tours offered that include swimming with the dolphins?

Kauai Explorer Staff | Mar 14, 2008 7:10PM

Dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, meaning humans need to keep a distance of at least 50 yards and may not swim to or approach them. There are a few companies [...] view more

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