Despite its small size Hawaii is one of the four most ecologically diverse US states, the others being California, Texas, and Alabama. It is estimated that over 21,000 species have been recorded in the Hawaii rainforest, surrounding ocean, and other locations.
Some of the most notable animals in Hawaii are manta rays, chameleons, dolphins, whales, and tiger sharks.
The Official State Animals of Hawaii
The Official state bird of Hawaii: Nene
The Nene (Branta sandvicensis) is also known as the Hawaiian Goose. Though it is believed to be evolved from the Canadian Goose, the Nene is a different species and is exclusively found on the islands of Hawai’i, Kaua’i, Molokai, Maui, and Oahu. It features a black head, a white and black striped neck, and an alternating brown and white feather pattern. The animal’s official IUCN status is vulnerable.
The Official fish of Hawaii: Humuhumunukunukuapua`a
The official fish of Hawaii is the Humuhumunukunukuapua`a (Rhinecanthus rectangulus), otherwise known as the Hawaiian trigger fish or reef triggerfish. This colorful fish has blue lips, a diagonal black marking down the side and streaks of yellow along it’s back. They can grow to be about 12 inches in length and can be rather aggressive. There have even been reports of the fish biting nearby swimmers. After briefly lapsing as the state’s official fish in 1990 it was permanently reinstated in 2006 by the governor.
The Official mammal of Hawaii: The Hawaiian Monk Seal
The Hawaiian Monk Seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi) is the official mammal of Hawaii, sort of. It is technically one of two official mammals but the other is specifically a marine mammal. It’s native name is ʻIlio-holo-i-ka-uaua which translates to “dog that runs in rough water”. Hawaiian Monk Seals are endangered and native to the Hawaiian island region. They are the only native seal found in the area.
The Official aquatic mammal of Hawaii: Humpback Whale
The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is officially recognized as the official aquatic mammal of Hawaii, but it is also often considered the official overall state animal. Given the island’s deep connection with the ocean and related species it is easy to see why. The humpback whale has high cultural significance and is featured on many Hawaiian emblems including the trade dollar. The whale is believed to be one of the animals that aumakua or family ancestors could take shape of and appear in visions or dreams to provide guidance.
Where to Find The Top Wild Animals in Hawaii
To find many of the most popular wild animals in Hawaii you’ll want to take an official wildlife tour. If you take an ocean based tour you may see monk seals, humpback whales, manta rays, sharks, and dolphins.
If you don your snorkel gear and stick to the shallow waters and coral surrounding the island you may see giant sea turtles as well as beautiful coral reefs.
If you stick to land or to the Hawaiian rainforest you may glimpse chameleons and the hoary bat (the only native land mammal to Hawaii), mongoose, and the nene.
Recommended locations for wildlife sighting include:
- Iao Valley
- Makena State Park
- Diamond Head State Park
- Waimea Canyon State Park
- Black Rock
- Molokini Wall
The Most Dangerous Animals In Hawaii Today
Hawaii is generally free from dangerous wildlife and poisonous creatures, making it an ideal eco tourist destination. However there are still a few animals you’ll want to avoid when traveling there.
While there are technically no snakes on Hawaii, there are some sea snakes like the Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake (Hydrophis platurus). There are also sharks in the coastal waters around the islands. While the likelihood of an attack from a shark is extremely low it could easily be fatal. Keep in mind that there have been a grand total of 11 recorded shark fatalities in Hawaii since 1828, almost all around Maui.
There are also Conus (Conidae), a cone snail with a toxin that can be deadly to humans. The creature feeds on small fish and marine worms. And lastly Black Widow (Latrodectus Mactans)
spiders can be found on the island as well, though they are hardly ever fatal.
Endangered Animals In Hawaii
Hawaiian endangered animals include:
- Nene goose – The official state bird of Hawaii
- Oahu Tree snails – A colorful snail with as few as 100 known sub species in existence. Frequently threatened by chameleons as predators.
- Hawaiian Monk Seals – The only native seal to Hawaii
- Hawaiian Hoary Bat – One of only two native mammals to Hawaii
- Sea Turtle – Highly sensitive to pollution and habitat destruction. Getting close can result in major fines.
- Crested Honeycreeper – Large birds found in Maui. It is estimated that only 3,800 remain today.
- Hawaiian Moorhen – A dark charcoal colored bird with a distinctive bright red beak
- Hawaiian Hawk – A solitary raptor currently believed to only breed on the big island
Below you can find a complete list of Hawaiian animals. We currently track 144 animals in United States (Hawaii) and are adding more every day!
Snakes in Hawaii
There are no native snakes found in Hawaii. Because the Hawaiian ecosystem consists of species that have adapted to environments free of snakes, them taking hold on the island could be catastrophic to local wildlife. There is one snake species that is widespread in Hawaii, but its a harmless snake named the Brahminy blind snake that is only six inches and preys on insects like ants. Invasive species like boa constrictors, garter snakes, and ball pythons have all been found in Hawaii in limited numbers. Also be aware that yellow-bellied sea snakes could be found in the waters around the islands, but there is no record of anyone being attacked by one in the state.