The 9 most peculiar critters of Hawaii, ranked from best to worst

No matter who you are or what your intention, no trip to Hawaii would be complete without a glimpse or two of our most interesting insects and wildlife, aka critters.

Here we’ve gathered the short list of which critters you can hope to avoid or be lucky enough to see — ranked from most inspiring to least desirable. Lucky we have no snakes!

I’o (Hawaiian hawk)

Even more rare than encountering a pueo is encountering an i’o, or Hawaiian hawk. I’o are rare and sacred birds of power — symbolic in Hawaiian royalty — which you may be lucky to see circling high in the sky (it’s rare to see an i’o up close).

About 20 years ago, I spotted an i’o soaring above me. A few minutes later, one of its feathers fluttered down and landed at my feet. A good sign indeed!

Pueo (owl)

There may be times in Hawaii when you’re on a hike, or the open road, and you see a pueo (Hawaiian short-eared owl), quietly swoop through the sky around you. Or perhaps you catch one staring at you with its sharp, piercing eyes.

Whatever the situation, seeing a pueo is an intense experience, leaving you to ponder the intensity of the encounter. In some Hawaiian families, pueo are regarded as aumakua, or spirit guardian of deceased ancestors.

Hawaiian Monk seal

Hawaiian monk seals are fairly rare to see. They are also supremely adorable.

Chances are if you see one, they’re lazing on the beach in a special roped-off area that looks like a little VIP area — that’s because Hawaiian monk seals are one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, and us humans must keep our distance.

Bust out the selfie!

Honu (turtle)

Seeing a wild honu (or sea turtle) in the Hawaiian ocean is a real treat. They are graceful, peaceful creatures that love to swim to the whims of the currents and the surf.

You may sometimes also see a honu sunning itself in total relaxation mode on the beach. Please keep in mind they are illegal to touch, although they are a sign of good luck.

Mynah bird

Local noisemakers

Those squawky, cocky brown-black birds with yellow-orange beaks? — those are mynah birds, one of the most common birds you’ll see in Hawaii (i.e., you cannot go a day without seeing one).

Local mynah birds, if you haven’t noticed, are known for their excessive “talking” and screeching, and occasional arguing with each other.

Like mongoose, they too were introduced to control pests during the sugar plantation days, but have ended up becoming a threat to native bird species.


Chickens are everywhere in Hawaii!

We locals tend to giggle when we see tourists snapping photos of the wild chickens walking around Hawaii. I guess we’re so used to co-habitating with them that it doesn’t occur to us that the most chicken some people see are either shrink-wrapped in the supermarket or offered on the menu.

But yes — expect to see local roosters, hens and cute little chicks walking around doing their chicken thing. Or maybe you’ll just hear them cock-a-doodling loud and clear in the morning.


Don’t mistake small and fuzzy for cute and friendly

Small Asian Mongoose were introduced to the Big Island in 1883 to eradicate rats from sugar cane crops. They were then turned loose on the other islands — thankfully Lana’i and Kaua’i were spared — and today they’ve become a predatorial threat to native bird and turtle nests.

Mongoose are rather unsavory creatures, moving very fast and low to the ground, occasionally stopping to stare at you with their small orange and black beady eyes. They are not cutest or friendly, either. In fact, mongoose are rather mean, and best left alone.


The cockroach is a permanent fixture of life in Hawaii — rather harmless creatures which are more of a gross nuisance than actual danger.

They are certainly ugly, but rather easy to outsmart once you learn their movements and habits. For example, cockroaches are sensitive to movement and vibrations, they can squeeze through spaces the width of a nickel and — unfortunately for us — they can fly!

If you’re truly worried about seeing a cockroach (or centipede) on your Maui vacation, don’t worry too much — all Sunny Maui Vacations properties are treated for pests.


Please no

It takes a rare type of person to appreciate a centipede. For the rest of us, they represent possibly the worst creature on Earth (official phobia: chiladophobia).

Centipedes are not super common in Hawaii, but you may see one “slithering” across the road or pathway as they make their way from one cool, dark, moist area to another.

If you see a centipede, just let it go on its way (they can bite).

Image credits: burlsxjcreations97943156@N0722557911@N0738856519@N05, inter-island_helicopters81839279@N08rudi_noodleemily_miller142463236@N07


Need a hand with your next Maui vacation? Please contact the Sunny Maui Vacations team at or call 808-240-1311, ext. 21. We’ll find you the best vacation rental condo in South Maui and help you with any and all recommendations and activities across Maui (chat with our in-house Concierge at extension 71).

Need a hand with your next Maui vacation? Please contact the Sunny Maui Vacations team at or call 808-240-1311, ext. 21. We’ll find you the best vacation rental condo or rental home in South Maui and help you with any and all recommendations and activities across Maui.