Animals in Hawaii

Updated: October 31, 2022
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Despite its small size Hawaii is one of the four most ecologically diverse US states, the others being California, Texas, and Alabama. It is estimated that over 21,000 species have been recorded in the Hawaii rainforest, surrounding ocean, and other locations. 

Some of the most notable animals in Hawaii are manta rays, chameleons, dolphins, geckos, whales, and tiger sharks

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The Official State Animals of Hawaii

As such an environmental hot spot it shouldn’t be surprising that Hawaii has many state animals. 

The Official state bird of Hawaii: Nene

The Nene (Branta sandvicensis) is also known as the Hawaiian Goose. Though it is believed to be evolved from the Canadian Goose, the Nene is a different species and is exclusively found on the islands of Hawai’i, Kaua’i, Molokai, Maui, and Oahu. It features a black head, a white and black striped neck, and an alternating brown and white feather pattern. The animal’s official IUCN status is vulnerable. 

Nene (Hawaiian goose) Standing in the grass

©Agami Photo Agency/

The Official fish of Hawaii: Humuhumunukunukuapua`a

The official fish of Hawaii is the Humuhumunukunukuapua`a (Rhinecanthus rectangulus), otherwise known as the Hawaiian trigger fish or reef triggerfish. This colorful fish has blue lips, a diagonal black marking down the side and streaks of yellow along it’s back. They can grow to be about 12 inches in length and can be rather aggressive. There have even been reports of the fish biting nearby swimmers. After briefly lapsing as the state’s official fish in 1990 it was permanently reinstated in 2006 by the governor.

The Humuhumunukunukuapua'a on a white background

©Melissa Brandes/

The Official mammal of Hawaii: The Hawaiian Monk Seal

The Hawaiian Monk Seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi) is the official mammal of Hawaii, sort of. It is technically one of two official mammals but the other is specifically a marine mammal. It’s native name is ʻIlio-holo-i-ka-uaua which translates to “dog that runs in rough water”. Hawaiian Monk Seals are endangered and native to the Hawaiian island region. They are the only native seal found in the area.  

Hawaiian Monk Seal sleeping on the sand by coral

©Evan Austen/

The Official aquatic mammal of Hawaii: Humpback Whale

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is officially recognized as the official aquatic mammal of Hawaii, but it is also often considered the official overall state animal. Given the island’s deep connection with the ocean and related species it is easy to see why. The humpback whale has high cultural significance and is featured on many Hawaiian emblems including the trade dollar. The whale is believed to be one of the animals that aumakua or family ancestors could take shape of and appear in visions or dreams to provide guidance. 

Humpback whale and baby whale swimming together
Humpback whale and baby whale swimming together

Where to Find The Top Wild Animals in Hawaii

To find many of the most popular wild animals in Hawaii you’ll want to take an official wildlife tour. If you take an ocean based tour you may see monk seals, humpback whales, manta rays, sharks, and dolphins. 

If you don your snorkel gear and stick to the shallow waters and coral surrounding the island you may see giant sea turtles as well as beautiful coral reefs. 

If you stick to land or to the Hawaiian rainforest you may glimpse chameleons and the hoary bat (the only native land mammal to Hawaii), mongoose, and the nene. 

Recommended locations for wildlife sighting include: 

The Most Dangerous Animals In Hawaii Today

Hawaii is generally free from dangerous wildlife and poisonous creatures, making it an ideal eco tourist destination. However there are still a few animals you’ll want to avoid when traveling there. 

While there are technically no snakes in Hawaii, there are some sea snakes like the Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake (Hydrophis platurus). There are also sharks in the coastal waters around the islands, such as tiger sharks and great white sharks. While the likelihood of an attack from a shark is extremely low it could easily be fatal. Keep in mind that there have been a grand total of 11 recorded shark fatalities in Hawaii since 1828, almost all around Maui. 

There are also Conus (Conidae), a cone snail with a toxin that can be deadly to humans. The creature feeds on small fish and marine worms. And lastly, Black Widow (Latrodectus Mactans) spiders can be found on the island as well, though they are hardly ever fatal. 

Endangered Animals In Hawaii

Hawaiian endangered animals include:

  • Nene goose – The official state bird of Hawaii
  • Oahu Tree snails – A colorful snail with as few as 100 known sub species in existence. Frequently threatened by chameleons as predators. 
  • Hawaiian Monk Seals – The only native seal to Hawaii
  • Hawaiian Hoary Bat – One of only two native mammals to Hawaii
  • Sea Turtle – Highly sensitive to pollution and habitat destruction. Getting close can result in major fines. 
  • Crested Honeycreeper – Large birds found in Maui. It is estimated that only 3,800 remain today. 
  • Hawaiian Moorhen – A dark charcoal colored bird with a distinctive bright red beak
  • Hawaiian Hawk – A solitary raptor currently believed to only breed on the big island

Below you can find a complete list of Hawaiian animals. We currently track 163 animals in United States (Hawaii) and are adding more every day!

Snakes in Hawaii

There are no native snakes found in Hawaii. Because the Hawaiian ecosystem consists of species that have adapted to environments free of snakes, them taking hold on the island could be catastrophic to local wildlife. There is one snake species that is widespread in Hawaii, but its a harmless snake named the Brahminy blind snake that is only six inches and preys on insects like ants. Invasive species like boa constrictors, garter snakes, and ball pythons have all been found in Hawaii in limited numbers. Also be aware that yellow-bellied sea snakes could be found in the waters around the islands, but there is no record of anyone being attacked by one in the state.

Other animals in Hawaii

There are two species of ticks found in Hawaii; the brown dog tick and the spinose ear tick.

Read about:

Hawaiian Animals


The largest wingspan of any bird in the world!

American Coonhound

Easygoing and people-friendly!


First evolved 100 million years ago!


Renew their horns every year!


Can curl into a hard, protective ball!


Extinct ancestor of all domesticated cattle!


Playful and energetic breed!

Barn Owl

Found everywhere around the world!


Detects prey using echolocation!


The Bea-Tzu has a fast-growing coat


An excellent companion for cats!


There are 8 different species!


There are more than 350,000 different species


Not all birds are able to fly!

Black Widow Spider

They typically prey on insects!

Black Witch Moth

Some folklore associate Black Witch Moths with bad luck (and even death!), while other associates them with good fortune.

Bluetick Coonhound

Has an uncanny knack for problem-solving!


Bred to look like a black panther!


Has loud cow-like calls!


The most common species of bee!


There are thought to be up 17,500 species!

Cactus Moth

Cactus moths can cause serious damage to cacti in locations where they have no predators.

Camel Cricket

The camel crickets that are found in the USA are light brown in color. They also have dark streaks all over their body.

Carolina Dog

Wild dog breed discovered in the 1970s!


First domesticated by the Ancient Egyptians!


The larvae of a moth or butterfly!


There are nearly 3,000 different species!


First domesticated more than 10,000 years ago!


Found in dense forests and wet jungles!


Dated to be around 300 million years old!


The Second Largest feline in North America


There are nearly 1.5 million worldwide!


Also known as the Prairie Wolf!


There are 93 different crab groups

Crab Spider

Crab Spiders can mimic ants or bird droppings


Many are critically endangered species!


Have changed little in 200 million years!


There are around 40 different species!

Diamondback Moth

Adult males make high amplitude boing noise to attract females


First domesticated in South-East Asia!


First domesticated 5,000 years ago!


Doxles have long floppy ears

Dragon Eel

Dragon eels have double jaws and two sets of razor-sharp teeth


It's larvae are carnivorous!


Rows of tiny plates line their teeth!

Dung Beetle

The dung beetle can push objects many times its own weight


Has exceptional eyesight!


There are nearly 2,000 different species!


Eels can be a mere few inches long to 13 feet!

English Shepherd

Highly intelligent and independent!


The fastest creatures on the planet!


Adult fleas can jump up to 7 inches in the air


There are more than 240,000 different species!

Flying Squirrel

Can glide up to 90 meters!


There are 12 different species in the world!


There are around 7,000 different species!

Galapagos Shark

Galapagos sharks are cannibalistic and sometimes eat their young, so the pups stay away from the adults in shallow water.


Can grow to more than 3m long!

Gila Monster

It's tail acts as a fat storage facility!

Glass Lizard

Can grow up to 4ft long!

Glow Worm

Found inhabiting dense woodland and caves!


There are 29 different species!


They dig large networks of tunnels!


There are 11,000 known species!

Grizzly Bear

Less than 10% make it into adulthood


Able to run as quickly backwards as forwards!


Can reach speeds of over 40 mph!

Hawaiian Goose (Nene)

They have the longest breeding season of any goose.

Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian name is "Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua," meaning "the dog which runs in rough waters.


Inhabits wetlands around the world!

Highland Cattle

Natively found in the Scottish Highlands!


Also known as the Colourpoint Persian!

Hoary Bat

The hoary bat travels hundreds of miles south for the winter

Honey Bee

There are only 8 recognized species!


Has evolved over 50 million years!


Thought to have orignated 200,000 years ago!


There are an estimated 30 million species!


They can run as fast as 45 mph.

Jackson’s Chameleon

Have jousting battles with their horns.


Features that closely resemble a Siamese cat!


Inhabits wetlands and woodlands worldwide!


There are more than 5,000 species worldwide!

Leatherback Sea Turtle

They are the largest living turtle and the only sea turtle without a hard shell!


The offspring of a lion and tiger parents!


There are around 5,000 different species!

Long-Eared Owl

Ear tufts make it look bigger!


Live in dens in rocks and under ledges!

Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish)

It's called the rabbit of the ocean because it multiplies so quickly.

Maine Coon

Folklore says it's half cat, half raccoon!

Masked Angelfish

All masked angelfish are female until sometime after sexual maturity, at which point some become male.


There are 2,500 known species worldwide!


They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.


Some species have a poisonous bite!


Primarily hunts and feeds on Earthworms!


Has characteristics of two or more breeds!


Feeds on aquatic insects and water-spiders!


There are 250,000 different species!

Mountain Lion

Has no real natural predators!


Found on every continent on Earth!


The offspring of a horse and donkey parents!


Able to regrow lost or damaged limbs!

North American Black Bear

Short claws make them good tree climbers!

Oleander Hawk Moth

Oleander hawk moth caterpillars feed on the foliage of oleander, an extremely toxic plant to which they are immune.


Thought to be immune to certain snake venom!

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males


There are 13 different species worldwide


The owl can rotate its head some 270 degrees


Prefers to hunt at night than during the day!


Females lay between 8 and 12 eggs per clutch!


Thought to have been domesticated in 9,000 BC!


Found in mountainous regions and rocky areas

Pike Fish

Apex freshwater predators with fearsome teeth!

Polyphemus moth

The Polyphemus moth doesn’t eat.


There are 30 different species worldwide!

Prairie Rattlesnake

The striking distance of a prairie rattlesnake is 2/3rds the length of its body.


Can remain in the water for up to 2 minutes!


Has longer back legs than front legs!


Inhabits woodland and forest areas worldwide!


There are more than 50 different species!


Known to wash their food before eating it!


Omnivores that eat anything!


It's venom digests it's prey before it even swallows it!

Red-Eared Slider

Sliders spend lots of time basking in the sun. As cold-blooded animals, they need the sun to heat up.

Red Wolf

Only 100 in the wild!

River Turtle

Inhabits freshwater habitats around the world!


There are more than 45 species in Australia alone!


The capybara, the world’s largest rodent, likes to be in and around bodies of water. Because of this, the Catholic Church in South America decided that it was a fish, and people were allowed to eat it during Lent and First Fridays.


Will mate with the entire flock!

Ruddy Turnstone

They flip over stones to find prey

Saber-Toothed Tiger

Canines up to 7 inches long!


There are around 2,000 known species!


Males give birth to up to 1,000 offspring!


Around 35 million in the English countryside!


There are 2,000 different species worldwide!


Also known as the Polecat!

Smokybrown Cockroach

Has up to 45 eggs per egg case


There are nearly 1,000 different species!


There are around 3,000 known species worldwide

Snapping Turtle

Only found in North America!


Snorkies are known for their funny, attention-getting antics.

Snowflake Eel

Snowflake Eel have two jaws to help them swallow their food.

Spadefoot Toad

They spend most of their time underground!


There are 140 different species!


Small rodents found in woodlands worldwide!

Stick Insect

There are more than 3,000 different species!


Populations have been affected by pollution!


Their mounds can be up to 9 meters tall!

Tiger Salamander

Found across the North American wetlands!


The Torkie has a soft silky coat


Closely related to pheasants and chickens!


There are 30 different species worldwide!


There are around 75,000 recognised species!

Water Buffalo

Has been domesticated for thousands of years!


The smallest carnivorous mammal in the world!


Thought to date back more than 300,000 years!

Wolf Spider

Carnivorous arachnid that hunts its prey.


Releases a strong smelling musk in defence!


There are 200 different species!

Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake

Sea snakes spend approximately 90% of their lives under water.


These dogs are very intelligent and are great with children.


The offspring of a Zebra and Horse parents!

Hawaiian Animals List

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About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

Animals in Hawaii FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How old are the Hawaiian Islands?

The oldest Hawaiian Island is Kauai, which is about 5.1 million years old. The islands are forming as the Pacific Plate moves about 4 inches per year across a magma hotspot which forms volcanoes that breach the surface as it continues moving at a slow pace. The newest island is the Big Island, which formed about .7 million years ago. Over time, islands will continue forming to the East of the Big Island, with the next island known as Loihi. It’s expected to breach the ocean surface in between 10,000 and 100,00 years.

What are the biggest sharks in Hawaii?

The biggest shark in Hawaiian waters is the whale shark. Beyond the whale shark, great whites, megamouth sharks, tiger sharks, and other large species are in Hawaii.