NOAA scientists estimate that more than 50 percent of the marine life in Hawai’i can’t be seen anywhere else on Earth. It makes sense when you consider the Hawaiian Islands are the most geographically isolated group of islands on the planet.

hawaii from space
Image public domain from NASA


Hawaiian marine life includes the world’s rarest seal, green lionfish, and many types of coral that you can’t see anywhere else. Hawksbill turtles, manta rays and spinner dolphins also call Hawai’i home.

Hawaiian Monk Seal
The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered animals in the world. Marine debris entanglement, starvation and shark attacks are the main threats to this very special seal. Hawaiian monk seals are conservation-reliant, but their numbers increased slightly from 2010 to 2016.

Angelfish fans who visit Hawai’i will think they’ve died and gone to heaven. The masked angelfish, bandit angelfish and Potter’s Angelfish are just a few of the angels waiting to say aloha to divers. The bandit angel is quite friendly, but Potter’s Angelfish tends to be shy.


Milletseed Butterflyfish
The milletseed butterflyfish, also known as the lemon butterflyfish, is endemic to Hawai’i and found at depths down to 250 metres/820 feet. Friendly and non-territorial, you may see these fish in large schools.

Milletseed Butterflyfish
Photo: NPS Employee


Hawaiian Bigeye
When you drop in on a dive site, you might see a Hawaiian Bigeye staring back at you. This red, sometimes silver fish, can be distinguished from non-Hawaiian bigeye fish because of their tendency to school and also by a series of dark spots along the fishes’ side.

Hawaiian Bigeye

Hawaiian Green Lionfish
In the Atlantic and Caribbean, lionfish are considered an invasive species, but in Hawai’i, they are a treasured scarcity. PADI® Course Director Teri White explains:

“Contrary to popular opinion, we actually need to protect our beautiful and precious Hawaiian lionfish. Many [Green Lionfish] have been collected for the aquarium trade, which has made them a scarcity on our reefs.”


Hawai’i is a special place where life has evolved in beautiful and amazing ways. The marine animals listed above are just a few of the endemic critters you may see when diving in Hawai’i. The islands are also home to the fangblenny and psychedelic wrasse in addition to other bucket list marine life including: harlequin shrimp and (seasonally) humpback whales. Contact your local PADI Dive Shop or PADI Travel Network to book your trip to Hawai’i.

Share This

Related Posts