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In an attempt to get out of the sun for part of the day, we decided to explore the Maui Ocean Center near Ma`alaea Harbor. I came here with my toddler Owen last October, but we both had the flu and were miserable. I thought we really needed to give it another shot.

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We didn’t arrive until almost 11:30am, which was our mistake. The Maui Ocean Center opens at 9am and that’s probably a better time to arrive. By the time we got there, the parking lot was so packed that we had to park in the adjacent parking lot. There were no sidewalks at the adjacent parking lot, which was a bummer when walking with a toddler with short legs.

There was no line when we (finally) got up to the entrance and we were able to walk in easily. The aquarium basically has 2 areas that are inside with air conditioning and then there are several exhibits outside in the direct sunlight. On a hot day like the day we went, the indoor areas were so packed that we could barely get close to the glass to see the fish. Had we gone earlier in the day, that might not have been such a problem.

Maui Ocean Center

One of many interactive exhibits at the Maui Ocean Center

But, when we were able to get close, the indoor exhibits were great! I loved that there were steps for smaller kids to get up close. I always think it’s a bummer when adults push to get up close to take photos and block the view from the kids. Having that step there is a subtle way to remind people that the aquarium is for everyone, even those with shorter legs!

I also appreciated how many large displays they had with benches. Being 6 months pregnant, it was nice to be able to sit down for a moment to catch my breath before continuing on. Owen especially liked seeing the submarine, since that’s his favorite bath toy.

The only big letdown is that Owen didn’t find Nemo or Dory, until we hit the gift shop where there was a big display. He kind of rushed through the aquarium looking for Nemo and Dory. But, it probably worked out because he was pretty tired by the end.

After the Maui Ocean Center, we ate at Seascapes restaurant that has an entrance inside the aquarium. The food was okay, but the service was abysmal. It took 20 minutes for our drinks to arrive and when they did, they were watery and unflavorful. We wanted to say something but no one ever came to check on us. It was also super windy and the kids menu was just paper and it kept blowing away as did the plastic cup of crayons.

Overall, we had a good time at the Maui Ocean Center, but wouldn’t say it’s a “must do” on Maui, if you only have a few days. It’s a bit pricey for what you get, but if you were on Maui for a week or more, it might be a nice way to plan half your day, especially with kids who are too young to go snorkeling.

Hawaiian Sea Turtles (Honu) in the outdoor exhibit at Maui Ocean Center

Hawaiian Sea Turtles (Honu) in the outdoor exhibit at Maui Ocean Center

5 Maui Ocean Center Tips:

  1. Get there early. That’s your best shot at nearby parking and possibly getting into the aquarium before the crowds.
  2. Bring a sun hat, preferably with a strap. It can get very windy.
  3. Wear sunscreen. There are a lot of exhibits in the sun and walking through the parking lot and from one indoor space to the next.
  4. Bring a stroller with a sun shade for small kiddos. The Maui Ocean Center is very stroller-friendly and it’s a nice way to keep small children out of the direct sun.
  5. Plan on eating somewhere else. There are a lot of good options in nearby Kihei (I recommend the fish tacos at Coconuts Fish Cafe!)

You might also like:
10 Tips for Traveling to Maui Solo with a Toddler

Maui Ocean Center


Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.

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