By Donnovan Suemoto and Mili Sivao
Want to learn more about Hawaii's exotic aquatic life? Or just looking for an afternoon of fun out with the family? Well then the Waikiki Aquarium is the place for you. It's a place of discovery and adventure that the whole family can enjoy.
To get there, get on Kalakaua Avenue and go straight thru Waikiki southbound; it's right on the end of this road, located right across Queen Kapiolani Park on beachfront property on the south shore of the beautiful island of Oahu. The Waikiki Aquarium first opened on March 19, 1904. It was run by the directors of the Honolulu Rapid Transit Authority who wished to show the world the riches of Hawaii's coral reefs. Back then it was called the Honolulu Aquarium and it was the third aquarium built in the United States.
The Aquarium itself does not have a lot of parking. But thankfully you can use the parking lot of Kapiolani Park which normally is not very full except for weekends. Be prepared to pay as you enter the aquarium because they do charge an entrance fee. But if you are a resident of the state of Hawaii then you can be entitled to a kamaiana rate (resident's discount) so be sure to show your Hawaii state ID. You should dress comfortably, in shorts and a t-shirt because there is no air-conditioning.
As you enter the Aquarium you are greeted by the cool moist air, and the smiling faces of the courteous employees there. To your left will be the gift shop. You'll probably want to go there last so head right toward the film room. Inside you'll be seated in a room that's always pitch dark, so watch your step! If watching films is not your thing then you should head out to the tank room. The tank room is also very dark, the light coming from the various tanks inside. This front of the room consists of many tanks, each with a different kind of reef organism inside. Some even show the Hawaiian names like the Humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua'a, or in english the Lagoon Triggerfish. This fish is the state fish and can be seen here energeticly swimming around in the various tanks. They also have fish that come from other parts of the world and are not found in Hawaii, like the Clown Triggerfish (from the Philipines), which I think is one of the most beautiful fish in the aquarium.
The centerpiece of the room is the gigantic shark tank! In it they display some of the kinds of sharks found on Hawaii's reefs today, like the docile blacktip reef shark, or the ferocious Galapagos shark. They also have reef and pelagic (open ocean) fish swimming around. It's also here that you can find the majestic Hawaiian Lionfish exhibit, and the Dragon Eel. Check these out if you want to see the two most wondrous fish in the sea.
At the end of the room is the freshwater stream and pond exhibits. It shows the many kinds of fish found in hawaii's freshwater environment such as the O'opu (goby) or the Freshwater Prawn from Thailand. There are also exhibits on ancient Hawaiian fishing techniques and how the aquariums water filtration works.
Outside again you first see a mini reef exhibit. It's an open air tank, sort of like a swimming pool with rocks and fish. At this exhibit there's usually a volunter posted who will allow you to touch some of the reef oranisms in this tank. Be sure not to touch the Wana! The wana is a black sea urchin that has extaordinarly long, hollow, poison filled spines. There are volunteers walking around and standing post at most of the larger exhibits so be sure to ask them questions.
Next up is the Hawaiian Monk Seal tank, here is where most of the visitors usually are. The seals are usually just lying around in the sun, but if your lucky they'll give you a bark or swim around and do an underwater ballet for you. The last exhibit would be the Mahimahi Hatchery, It's here that they show off the technology they have developed to breed and grow mahimahi to market size for consumption. Close inspection revels the Mahi to be partially deformed this is because of the artificial food that they are fed.
The aquarium has tour groups available and volunteer programs that can help you toward school or future jobs so be sure to call and check these out. Before you leave check out the gift shop and buy something that will help you remember your trip to the Waikiki Aquarium.