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Maui Ocean Center: Essential Tips and Honest Review

Maui Ocean Center: Essential Tips and Honest Review

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Heading to the Maui Ocean Center? Here are a few tips, plus an honest review, on how to best enjoy the place with your kids and entire family!
This Maui Ocean Center Tips & Review was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

If you’re looking for a fun and educational escape from the sun, the Maui Ocean Center near Ma`alaea Harbor is a must-visit. This family-friendly aquarium offers a captivating glimpse into hawaiʻi’s marine life, featuring endemic species, live coral, and fascinating sea creatures.

Whether you’re exploring the interactive indoor exhibits or marveling at the outdoor displays, the Maui Ocean Center provides an engaging experience for visitors of all ages.

Read on to discover my honest review based on our personal experience, helpful tips, and what makes this destination a delightful addition to your Maui itinerary.

Exploring the Maui Ocean Center

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.

Arriving at the Maui Ocean Center

We didn’t arrive until almost 11:30 a.m., which was our mistake. The Maui Ocean Center opens at 9 a.m., 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.

First Impressions

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 indoor areas with air conditioning and several exhibits outside in 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: Essential Tips and Honest Review

One of many interactive exhibits at the Maui Ocean Center

Enjoying the Indoor Exhibits

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!

Taking a Break

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.

Nemo and Dory Hunt

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 rushed through the aquarium looking for them, but it probably worked out because he was pretty tired by the end.

Dining at Seascapes Restaurant

After the Maui Ocean Center, we ate at Seascapes restaurant, which 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 arrived, 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 kid’s menu was just paper, and it kept blowing away, as did the plastic cup of crayons.

Overall Experience

Overall, we had a good time at the Maui Ocean Center, but we 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 spend 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

Enhancing Your Visit

To make the most of your visit, consider the behind-the-scenes tour that offers a deeper look at Hawaiʻi’s marine life.

The Maui Ocean Center showcases a variety of endemic species and live coral displays. You and your family can learn about Hawaiian culture and the importance of preserving marine life for future generations.

The exhibits highlight fascinating sea creatures in both indoor and outdoor settings. Plus, the ticket price includes access to all exhibits, and the center is open daily. Don’t miss the beautiful green sea turtles up an exhibit to have a closer look at them.

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 Wrap-Up

Our visit to the Maui Ocean Center was a memorable adventure filled with vibrant marine displays and educational exhibits. Despite a few hiccups, like the crowded indoor areas and a less-than-stellar dining experience, the aquarium’s diverse marine life, including the mesmerizing green sea turtles and immersive behind-the-scenes tour, made it worthwhile.

This destination offers a wonderful way to introduce children to the wonders of the ocean and the importance of conservation for future generations.

If you plan your visit right and come prepared, the Maui Ocean Center can be a fantastic highlight of your Maui trip.

Maui Ocean Center: Essential Tips and Honest Review

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