Traveling to Maui means fun in the sun, sightseeing, and of course, swimming in the crystal clear blue waters of Hawaii. One thing that makes Hawaii so unique is the amazing sealife which boasts many endemic species that are found nowhere else in the world. As a tropical island chain, the reef systems here are second to none with some very interesting fish and invertebrate species. Make sure to look out for these unique species on your next snorkel trip with Sail Maui!


Humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa (Rectangular Triggerfish)

Probably the most famous fish in Hawaii is the Humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa which is lovingly shortened to Humu in most cases. The Humu is the Hawaii State fish and proudly represented in songs, clothing designs, art work and restaurant names. This fish can be identified by a blue stripe over the top lip, its black, yellow and tan coloring as well as the snorting sound it makes while under stress. In Hawaiian its name means ‘Triggerfish with a snout like a pig’. This famous fish sifts through the sand to find food but is known to be aggressive so keeping your distance is recommended, however they are lovely to observe amongst the reef ecosystem. 

Pennant Bannerfish (Kihi Kihi)

This colorful fish is very recognizable amongst other reef fish. Its extravagant and long dorsal fin along with its black and white stripes make it easy to identify. If you have trouble remembering what this species looks like, just recall that Gill in Finding Nemo is a Kihi Kihi Fish! This species can be found all around the islands and are especially gorgeous off the coast of Lanai because of their similarity to Shark Fin Rock. These fish are fast swimmers with a diet of sea sponges and can be found in up to 600 feet of water! Keep an eye out for this interesting fish on your next snorkel trip in Maui!

The Flying Fish (Mālolo)

While it is less common to see this species chilling in the reefs around Hawaii, they are one of the most beautiful sights when sailing around Maui. This heavenly fish is a common sight when sailing the channel between Maui and Molokini. When disturbed by boats or ahi (tuna) predators, the Mālolo will spread its pectoral fin and begin its escape above the water leaving a zigzagged trail behind them. Reaching top speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, this flying fish can glide along the water for up to a quarter mile! Keep an eye out for these shiny aviators on your next sailing trip!

Potter’s Angelfish 

This colorful creature is endemic to Hawaii’s reef ecosystems. Its vibrant tangerine orange and contrasting deep blue colors are most noticeable on the males of the species. These fish are commonly found hanging around finger coral colonies for protection and to feed on algae. A notable feature of this species is its ability to change sex if a dominant male is removed from the group! They are commonly found in around 15 feet of water so it’s best to look for this species in shallow reefs found around West Maui.

Threadfin Butterfly Fish (Lau Hau)

A commonly seen fish seen in Hawaii is also a resident of Fiji, Tonga, and Indonesia. The Lau Hau is recognized by its white and yellow chevron stripes with a prominent black spot at the base of its dorsal fin. This fish is a popular addition to many saltwater aquariums and are usually seen hanging in the nooks of coral heads for protection. Keep an eye out for this interesting species on your next snorkel trip in Maui!

These are just a few beautiful fish species that can be found in the reefs around Maui. A few other common species include the Ornate Butterflyfish, Yellow Long nose Butterfly Fish, Saddle Wrasse Fish, and many more! Reef fish are important to the reef ecosystems in Hawaii and are a beautiful sight to see on any snorkel trip!