When Do Sea Turtles Come To Shore In Hawaii

Sea turtles are fascinating creatures that have captured the hearts of many. Their graceful movements and ancient lineage make them a beloved symbol of the ocean. Hawaii, with its warm waters and abundant marine life, is a popular destination for sea turtles. But when do these majestic creatures come to shore in Hawaii? Let’s explore the different species of sea turtles found in Hawaii and the times of year when they can be observed on the islands.

The Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

The Green Sea Turtle, also known as Honu in Hawaiian, is the most common species of sea turtle found in Hawaii. These turtles are known for their vibrant green coloration and can grow up to 3-4 feet in length, weighing around 300-350 pounds. They are herbivores, feeding primarily on seagrass and algae.

Green sea turtles can be seen in Hawaii year-round, but they are more commonly observed during the summer months. This is because they migrate to the islands to bask in the sun and rest on the sandy beaches. The warm waters surrounding Hawaii provide an ideal environment for these turtles to thrive.

The Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

The Hawksbill Sea Turtle is a critically endangered species that can also be found in Hawaii. These turtles have a unique appearance, with a pointed beak and a beautiful shell pattern that resembles a hawksbill. They are smaller in size compared to green sea turtles, reaching lengths of around 2-3 feet and weighing up to 100-150 pounds.

Hawksbill sea turtles are known to nest in Hawaii, particularly on the islands of Maui and Hawaii. They typically come to shore during the summer months, between May and September, to lay their eggs. These nesting events are a rare and incredible sight, as the female turtles dig deep holes in the sand to bury their eggs.

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is another species that occasionally visits the shores of Hawaii. These turtles have a large head and powerful jaws, which they use to feed on hard-shelled prey such as crabs and mollusks. Loggerheads can grow up to 3-4 feet in length and weigh between 200-400 pounds.

Loggerhead sea turtles are known to migrate long distances, and some individuals may find their way to Hawaii. However, their visits are less frequent compared to green and hawksbill sea turtles. If you’re lucky, you may spot a loggerhead sea turtle in Hawaii during the summer months.

The Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

The Leatherback Sea Turtle is the largest species of sea turtle and can reach lengths of up to 7 feet, weighing over 1,000 pounds. These turtles have a unique leathery shell instead of a hard one, which sets them apart from other sea turtle species. They primarily feed on jellyfish and migrate long distances in search of food.

While leatherback sea turtles are known to frequent the waters around Hawaii, they rarely come to shore. These turtles prefer open ocean habitats and are less likely to be observed on the beaches. If you’re interested in seeing a leatherback sea turtle, your best chance is to join a boat tour or go snorkeling in their feeding grounds.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Are sea turtles protected in Hawaii?

Yes, sea turtles are protected by both state and federal laws in Hawaii. It is illegal to harm, harass, or disturb sea turtles, their nests, or hatchlings. If you encounter a sea turtle on the beach, it is important to keep a safe distance and avoid touching or interfering with them.

2. Can I swim with sea turtles in Hawaii?

Swimming with sea turtles is a popular activity in Hawaii. However, it is important to remember that sea turtles are wild animals and should be observed from a respectful distance. Touching or chasing sea turtles can cause them stress and disrupt their natural behavior.

3. Where are the best places to see sea turtles in Hawaii?

There are several locations in Hawaii where you have a good chance of spotting sea turtles. Some popular spots include Laniakea Beach on Oahu’s North Shore, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach on the Big Island, and Ho’okipa Beach on Maui. These beaches are known for their frequent turtle sightings.

4. How can I help protect sea turtles in Hawaii?

There are several ways you can contribute to the conservation of sea turtles in Hawaii. Avoid littering on beaches or in the ocean, as marine debris can be harmful to turtles and other marine life. If you encounter a sea turtle nesting on the beach, notify local authorities to ensure their safety.

5. Are there any volunteer opportunities to help sea turtles in Hawaii?

Yes, there are various organizations in Hawaii that offer volunteer programs focused on sea turtle conservation. These programs often involve monitoring nesting sites, assisting with research projects, and educating the public about sea turtle conservation. Check with local conservation groups for more information.

6. Can I adopt a sea turtle in Hawaii?

While you cannot adopt a wild sea turtle, you can support sea turtle conservation efforts by symbolically adopting a sea turtle through reputable organizations. These adoption programs often provide funding for research, habitat protection, and education initiatives.


Sea turtles are a cherished part of Hawaii’s marine ecosystem. The Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, and Leatherback Sea Turtle can all be found in the waters surrounding the islands. While green sea turtles can be observed year-round, hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtles are more commonly seen during the summer months. Leatherback sea turtles, on the other hand, are less likely to come to shore and are best observed in their open ocean habitats. Remember to respect and protect these magnificent creatures when encountering them in Hawaii’s waters, and contribute to their conservation efforts whenever possible.