Hawai'i Coral Reef Network

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Kahalu'u, Hawai'i 

Special Features

The view from the reefKahalu'u is a one of the best examples in West Hawai'i of a protected reef flat habitat. The area is ideal for snorkeling and rarely exceeds 3 m depths. Although fish are more abundant closer to shore due to human feeding (see Potential Threats), the water is quite murky and there are few corals. Swim offshore about 100 m and you will discover a shallow, clear reef teeming with marine life. Generally the currents here are mild unless the surf is large.


Shallow areas are commonly grazed bare by abundant urchins such as collector urchins (Tripneustes gratilla), banded sea urchins or wana (Echinothrix calamaris), which are well known for their poisonous spines, rock boring urchins (Echinometra mathaei), and slate-pencil urchins (Heterocentrotus mammillatus). Corals are dominated by lobe coral (Porites lobata) and cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina), but there are many other less common species found on the reef.

Urchins graze the reef flat


Butterflyfish are quite common here and easily observed up close. Threadfin butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga [left]) are common as are racoon (C. lunula), fourspot (C. quadrimaculatus), bluestripe (C. fremblii [right]) and the vey large lined butterflyfish (C. lineolatus). These species commonly occur in pairs, which are known to stay together for extended periods of time.

Pair of threadfin butteflyfish at Kahalu'u

Bluestripe butterflyfish


Last update: 1/25/2005