Kauai Ocean Kritters

Hawaiian Sea TUrtle

So the ocean is where you can be pretty sure the kritters are indigenous to Kauai, or at least to the ocean around Kauai!    oh and they are magnificent!    The Turtle, Dolphin, Whale, Shark… those amazing Kauai Ocean Kritters that so many people want to see on Kauai.      It seems as though the azure water has something to do with this:  that aquamarine blue of different hues that is the playground of these most extraordinary animals on our Earth.    Kauai Ocean Kritters are magical indeed.

Whale “Kohola” 

The humpback whales visit every year from anywhere between November and May.    It’s a “thing” on Kauai to see your first Whale Spout of the season or spot one late in May.    They come to give birth and mate, though contrary to some opinion out there, not to feed.

Humpback Whale breaching Hawaii

Humpback Whale breaching off the coast

It is possible to do a “whale watching” tour but you can also see them from certain spots around the island, just pay attention .    The Hawaiians believe the Whales carry the spirit of finding your voice and knowledge or wisdom, as do many other indigenous peoples of the world.

Ever since “Whale Rider”, that wonderful movie from New Zealand, even more people have opened up to the majesty of these beings.

I remember a few years ago going out with a friend on a boat from Nawiliwili harbor.   We went towards the south and came across a Mother and baby whale.    Our Captain knew not to go too close but Mama and baby wanted to say Hi ; it was one of the most incredible experiences ever to see them breaching and playing 30 feet away from the boat.     What a blessing.

Dolphin “Nai’a” 

Kauai Dolphin

Dolphin near Kauai

Most of the dolphins around Kauai are the Spinner dolphins – they are fast an zippy!    They love to swim in front of the boats (or behind) .    You have a better chance of seeing dolphins from a boat on the morning boat tours than later on.   They tend to come into shore early on and then they are off exploring.     There are some beaches where you can swim out and meet them… but you have to be a very good swimmer.      The Hawaiians believe that the dolphins carry the spirit of “Mana” or blessings from heaven, maybe that’s why whenever we see dolphins we just can’t stop smiling… at least I can’t and I know a lot of other people are the same.    They just love having fun don’t they?

I can never mention Dolphins without my favorite Dolphin quote from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams:

“On planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time.   Conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent —for precisely the same reasons.”

I’m with the Dolphins!

Turtle “Honu”

Hawaiian Sea Turtle

Hawaiian Sea Turtle… BEAUTIFUL!

Turtles can be found all around the island.    They love to play and hang out in the froth of the water as it crashes against lava rock that has steep drop offs…… so along the walk from the bottom of the trail to where Queen’s Bath is in Princeville, or to the right of “Spouting Horn” in Koloa and any other areas like that.

They often hang out by the reef at Ke’e beach and there are a few other spots where you will find them.   They always seem so wise to me.    Ancient, wise, just magnificent.   When you consider that they date back to the age of the Dinosaurs, I suppose that makes sense.

Many Hawaiians consider seeing them to be good luck and there is one myth that talks of them being the protector of children.

I was on the Big Island one time and they were on the beach literally in a few feet of water.    They came up to humans, not the other way around.    A self important woman came over and said to me “you’re not supposed to be so near”.    But seriously, I would move away and they would follow.    When an animal does that, I don’t believe there is any harm being done.   It’s all about the energy.


Shark  “Mano”

Yes, well I think everyone knows we have sharks on Kauai.      Hawaiian mythology and tradition is steeped in legend of the Shark, or Mano which is seen as a symbol of strength and the Aumakua that keeps balance in the oceans.     A very powerful Aumakua.

Tunnels beach, the very popular and beautiful beach between Hanalei and Ke’e beach has a bit of a secret that most people are not aware of; namely that the tunnels after which the beach is named which are ancient lava rock tunnels underneath the water often have sleeping tiger sharks in them.   It’s ok, they just go there to sleep.

Sharks only seem to attack humans when they have made a mistake; it’s fairly well known that when Bethany Hamilton lost her arm to a shark attack a few years ago at Ke’e beach, it was because she was out surfing in murky water after rain and wearing a brightly colored watch, which she thought the shark mistook for a fish.

Still better to stay safe and only swim and surf in clear waters.    Sharks are not really interested in humans, though it seems we are fascinated by them.      Did anyone see that amazing footage of a woman stroking sharks?    You can clearly see the sharks enjoying the encounter.

Hawaiian Monk Seal

About a year after I moved to the island, I was walking alone along Papa’a bay one day.. it wasn’t that sunny and it was probably after 3 and no one was around.    There are quite large boulders all along the bay and I was walking, thinking.   Then as I was almost upon one of the boulders it moved and turned a sleek head with those beautiful, limpid eyes and looked at me.    I pulled back of course to a respectful distance and just sat there for awhile, basking in the energy of this lovely creature.

Hawaiian Monk Seal

Beautiful Hawaiian Monk Seal

They come up onto the beaches fairly regularly to rest and the Hawaiian Seal Monk Watch are called when this happens.   One of their members will come to the beach and cordon off the area and they always put a sign saying don’t go within 60 feet.     I understand their concern as some people who don’t know any better will literallly try and get closer to get a snapshot with the seal.    I was witness to that recently when one seal decided to rest first on the rocks around Baby Beach and then on the sand.   Baby beach in Kapa’a is really not that big so this was only 10 feet from the road.   Even though a cordon was in place, I saw a tourist couple try and go down and take a photo.

My daughter was witness to an even worse intrusion of privacy on Oahu a few years back when she and her friend were walking above a beach and a turtle was on the sand.    A group of tourists encouraged their 6 year old kid to climb onto its back so they could take photos.   My daughter yelled out and waved at them but by the time she got near, they had left.      Please people!   Respect our animal friends… I mean how would you like it if someone came and invaded your space to take a snapshot for Instagram!          As we say in Hawaii…. “thank you for your Kokua”.   That means thank you for respecting and acting respectfully.   Our Kauai Ocean Kritters are such peaceful beings.

Sea Snake

Yes, there are sea snakes, but they are few and far between.   I have only seen one – a beautiful yellow snake one time at a remote beach between the East and North Shores.    Even though I researched it, I couldn’t find what it may have been and have never seen another.

Moray Eel 

I have seen more than a few moray eels over the years.    These are something that you don’t particuarly want to bite you as it’s extremely hard to get them to release their grip.    So just don’t go reaching your hand into little caves and gaps in the reef or pools.    You don’t want to disturb one of those.

Sea Urchins

Okay, now getting one of the spikes from these guys in your foot is painful… so just be really careful where you step and or wear shoes.   You will also see the Sea Cucumbers who resemble giant slugs I suppose, but cuter.

We have Hihimanu (Sting Ray) Manta Rays and all manner of beautiful and glorious sea creatures out in the deeper oceans but most of the time, you will need to Scuba Dive to see them.

Kauai Fish

Kauai Rainbow Fish

Kauai Rainbow Rish

When you snorkel, you will see all manner of colorful Kauai fish, the most famous being the one with the longest name:  Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, yes, that’s really its name.     There’s the trumpet fish, various types of Butterfly fish,  groper and these are just the small ones.    Yellow, green blue and all colors in between.       Snorkeling is one of the most fun things to do on Kauai.      Of course there’s a lot of fun things you can do in the water on Kauai and you will find some of them on my Kauai Top 10 Activities Part One and Two.   There’s even more detail in my Kauai Guide.

If you go Scuba diving, then you may see the big fish:  Manta Rays, Sharks, Dolphins, and some of the more “ono” (delicious) fish that you will find for supper at good restaurants on the island.

The photo above is of the Rainbow Fish – naturally!Kauai Ocean Kritters are full of color, life and fun!     Join them!




About the Author

Kauai Advisor ~ Francesca Azuremare ~ has lived on Kauai for 22 years. I feel blessed to live in such a magical, beautiful place. Over the years I have helped thousands of people find the perfect place to stay on Kauai whilst also advising on everything from places to propose to the best Na Pali boat ride. Now I'm sharing that information here. It's the Hawaiian way. Aloha!