Tropical fish you can find in Hawaii

May 10, 2021 0

Have a trip planned to Hawaii soon? Are you curious about which tropical fish you may find in the ocean here? Snorkeling with beautiful schools of colorful fish and sea turtles are nearly every visitors dream. A smart way to prepare for your stay is to learn about the fish you are likely to see while in the water. Quality snorkel gear is very important. Something that fits your face properly, will keep water out of your mouth, and provide safety and comfort while enjoying this activity! We are here to help you prepare for your exciting trip to Hawaii, and make new memories. Now let’s talk about a few of the tropical fish you can find in Hawaii.

Saddle Wrasse (Hinalea Lauwili)


The Saddle Wrasse is the most abundant of the reef fish in Hawaii. It’s name comes from the red saddle that is visible behind its pectoral fin. This fish has the incredible ability to change sexes and color patterns throughout its life! Wow! In the Wrasse family, there are 43 different fish. However, only 13 of these are native to Hawaiian waters. They will often follow behind the snorkelers in the water. Sometimes fish mistakingly search for feeding opportunities in the disturbances that are brought on by snorkelers movements.

Rectangular Triggerfish (Humuhumunukunukuapua’a)

This is the Hawaii state fish. It’s Hawaiian name is tricky to say, something that kids find as entertainment growing up here! It’s more commonly known as the Rectangular Triggerfish. It even makes a snorting sound similar to a pig, when it’s cornered or under stress. This fish can also erect its dorsal spines into the shape of a “trigger” when it feels threatened.

Green Sea Turtle


These beautiful creatures are found all throughout the Hawaiian Islands! Green Sea Turtles, are gentle and will not harm you. Please do not touch them and keep 10 feet of distance. Once endangered, they have now made a significant comeback in recent years. Maui is home to some of the largest nesting grounds for Green Sea Turtles in Hawaii. Read our blog to find out where to find turtles to snorkel with. If you ever see a turtle that is sick, injured or in distress, please contact MOC Marine Institute. 

White Mouth Eel

This eel is a member of the Moray eel family. It does not have pectoral or pelvic fins, giving it the appearance of a large snake. This eel’s ability to slither through small cracks is an advantage, as it stands by to capture its prey. Their extremely sharp teeth and lightening fast jaws make them dangerous if provoked.

Moorish Idol (Kihi Kihi)


This fish has a crescent shaped body with an extended dorsal fin similar to the Pennant fish. Its distinct black and white markings make the Moorish Idol a popular option for aquariums. They can grow up to 10 inches in length and the older they get, the less prominent their dorsal fin becomes.

These are just a few of the tropical fish you can find in Hawaii. If you would like to snorkel at the underwater volcano of Molokini, we highly recommend it! If you prefer to go on your own adventure, there are many beautiful spots around the island to explore. Remember to be cautious of the ocean conditions, and when in doubt, don’t go out! The best time for snorkeling is early morning, stay close to the reef and rocks. The further out you go or the windier the day, the stronger the ocean currents can be. It is always a great idea to make sure you are a strong enough swimmer before getting in the water. Having a flotation device nearby in case you fatigue, is always helpful.

It is required by law to wear reef-safe sunscreen to protect our coral reefs and marine life, so please make sure to prepare yourself in advance! Now, enjoy what our beautiful tropical ocean has to offer. 🙂

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