Maui Ocean Center
A few miles north of Kihei, is the area known as Ma’alaea. Its home of a large boat harbor (so if you take a whale watching boat trip or a snorkel/diving trip, chances are good it will leave from here). It is also the home of the Maui Ocean Center.
Maui Ocean Center is small by mainland aquarium standards, but it is completely worth the trip. First of all, the majority of the creatures you see are not domesticated. They were caught or found in the ocean and, after a time at the aquarium, they are returned to the ocean. There’s a few exceptions, mostly of creatures that are not native to Hawaii (and could become an invasive pest) but their dedication to showing you how the creatures live is commendable. You will not find animals doing tricks for food here. You also will not find any marine mammals – Maui law prohibits them. While dolphins and things are amazing, take a boat and go see those in the open ocean where they belong.
Be sure to watch the pink-tailed triggerfish. He/she (no one knows) will jump out of the water and squirt water at people. S/he is not doing it for food, and not been taught this – s/he does it just for fun.
If you go on a day where the have the “behind the scenes” tour (when they do it, its usually on Tuesdays and Fridays), do it. Its worth the extra $10. You get to see a bunch of the things behind the scenes, get a little closer to some of the creatures, and feed the honus (green sea turtles) and hammerhead sharks. Its pretty cool.
The tunnel is amazing. You will want to stand there for the rest of the day, while big fish (including sharks and rays) swim over, beside and under you. Its amazing.
Don’t be fooled by the pictures. You cannot touch the animals. The guy holding the baby honu in the pictures is an employee and has special legal permission to touch/hold it. You can’t. But you can get your picture taken with him and the honu, which is pretty cool.
Maui Ocean Center is not to be missed. Get your tickets here – they ask for a date & time, but you can really use it anytime they are open to the public.