Mammals and Reptiles

Hawaiian monk seal

This monk seal relaxes on the beach as the tide washes by.

  • Dolphins


    Groups of nai‘a (spinner dolphins) play close to shore in spring and summer, entertaining visitors with dramatic leaps and spins.  

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  • Hawaiian Monk Seals


    ‘Ilio holo i ka uaua (Hawaiian monk seals) can occasionally be seen hauling out on rocks below the cliffs. Most of these endangered seals live in the remote northwestern area of the Hawaiian Islands and are a rare sight on Hawai‘i's main islands 

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  • Turtles


    You may even spot a honu (green sea turtle) bobbing in the waves below Kīlauea Point. Although turtles may be seen mating in Kaua‘i waters, honu typically mate and nest at the place of their birth in French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

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  • Whales


    • Found in the Hawaiian Islands from December - April. Best time for viewing is January - March.
    • A species of baleen whale. It is one of the larger rorqual species, with adult females being larger than adult males.
      • Females: 49 – 52 ft
      • Males: 43 – 46 ft
    • Humpbacks are easily identifiable by their stocky body, obvious hump, black dorsal coloring and elongated pectoral fins. The head and lower jaw are covered with knobby tubercles (hair follicles), which are characteristic of the species.
    • The fluked tail has wavy trailing edges and often rises above the surface when diving. The long black and white pectoral fins can be up to a third of its body length, which are proportionally the longest fins of any cetacean.
    • Males produce a complex song lasting 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time. All the males in a group will produce the same song, which is different each season. Its purpose is not clear, though it’s speculated to help induce estrus in females.
    • The Haiwaiin Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kaua’i hugs the coastline from Kīlauea to Hāʻena. The humpbacks travel around 16,000 miles a year from their feeding grounds in Alaska to their winter breeding areas. The Marine Sanctuary protects one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats.
    • From November to April up to 12,000 humpbacks whales return to the Hawaiian Islands, the only state in the United States where humpback whales mate, calve, and nurse their young. It's believed that Humpbacks find Hawai‘i suitable because of the warm waters, the underwater visibility, the variety of ocean depths, and the lack of natural predators.
    • Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge offers a great vantage point for whale watching due to the fact that we sit 200 feet above sea level. Come join us at the Wildlife Refuge for a chance to see these beauties.
    • Lifespan: 45-50 years
    • Adults can weigh up to 66,000 lbs!
    • Diet: krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net technique.
    • Humpback feed in polar waters and do not feed while they are in Hawaii because the waters don’t contain the same degree of zooplankton and marine organisms that humpback whales feed on compared to colder waters. Instead, adults rely on their own blubber while the calves rely on their mother's milk.
    • The species was once hunted to the brink of extinction, like other large whales, the humpback was a target for the whaling industry and its population fell by an estimated 90% before a 1966 moratorium. Though stocks have partially recovered to about 80,000 animals worldwide, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships and noise pollution continue to affect the species.