Are There Sharks In Hawaii?

The US state of Hawaii is renowned for its tropical blue waters and pristine beaches.

But have you ever wondered what lurks beneath the ocean waves?

Are There Sharks In Hawaii?

Hawaii is a refuge for a whole bunch of amazing aquatic creatures including sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and a vast array of different fish species. 

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, Hawaii’s waters are home to that most feared type of fish, the shark. So yes, there are sharks in Hawaii.

But that’s not all you want to know about them, is it? Let’s learn more about the sharks that call Hawaii home.

What Types Of Sharks Live In Hawaii?  

Hawaii’s waters, among the warmest in the pacific ocean, are home to an impressive array of shark species.

In fact, there are at least 41 different species that call this part of the world home, although some are only infrequent visitors.

In the latter category are Great White Sharks, which occasionally frequent Hawaiian waters in the winter months.

Great Whites generally prefer to live in cooler waters, which is why they won’t be found in Hawaii in the summer months when the waters become too warm. 

That’s not to say that Hawaii’s waters aren’t home to ‘dangerous’ sharks, though.

Fearsome Tiger Sharks are found in Hawaii, as are Bull Sharks and Hammerhead Sharks.

The vast majority of Hawaii’s shark species are much smaller sharks known as reef sharks.

In fact, reef sharks account for 35 of the 41 species of shark found in the state. These sharks aren’t going to kill you, but it doesn’t mean they are completely harmless either.

They’ve still got plenty of viciously sharp teeth, and they have been known to bite people.

Of course, when you spot a shark whilst in the water, identifying it might not be one of your top priorities.

Whatever the type of shark, you should keep your distance and treat it with respect. 

What Sharks Are Most Frequently Encountered In Hawaii?

Of the 41 species of shark found in Hawaii, only eight or so are common along the state’s shorelines and thus more likely to be spotted by people.

The most commonly sighted are the sandbar shark, the whitetip reef shark, and the scalloped hammerhead, and the blacktip reef shark. 

Tiger sharks are sometimes spotted near the coastline, too.

They have a habit of appearing at the mouths of rivers and streams in the aftermath of heavy rainfall, ready to feast on fish swept out to sea by the torrent.

Further out to sea, the Galapagos shark is also found in great numbers, and is commonly spotted on shark diving trips from the island of Oahu.

Along with the tiger shark Galapagos sharks are amongst the most aggressive species in Hawaii’s waters, so you’ll have to get in a shark cage to see them up close and personal. 

Are There Shark Attacks In Hawaii?

Are There Sharks In Hawaii?

Naturally for a place that has a reasonably large population of sharks, including some species like the tiger shark that is known to occasionally be aggressive, Hawaii does have shark attacks.

Perhaps surprisingly, though, shark attacks in Hawaii are comparatively rare. 

The numbers appear even more insignificant if you consider the sheer numbers of people that swim and enjoy other recreational activities in Hawaii’s waters each year.

According to the state of Hawaii’s official statistics, there have been just six fatal shark attacks in Hawaii since 1995, with the most recent coming in 2020.

All of these attacks took place in waters off the island of Maui, Hawaii’s capital for shark encounters, and as a result, deadly shark attacks. 

These statistics might make the overall picture appear slightly more damning than it actually is.

Compare, for example, the six fatal shark attacks on Maui over the course of nearly two decades with nine ocean-related non-shark deaths on Maui in the month of January 2018 alone.

Consider the fact, too, that in the 190 years between the first recorded shark attack in 1828 and 2018, there have been just 159 shark attacks and a mere 10 deaths. 

Even in most cases of ‘shark attack’, the injuries resulting were relatively minor bites that could be treated with some stitches. 

The vast majority of attacks, at least where the shark could be identified, have been carried out by tiger sharks.

Hammerhead sharks and Galapagos sharks have also been identified as the attacker in a number of cases. Don’t worry about great whites, though.

Although there have been some cases where the attacker has been claimed to have been a great white shark, there have been no confirmed great white shark attacks in Hawaiian waters. 

Where To See Sharks In Hawaii

Just because you don’t want to hop in the water with sharks, it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have to see them at all!

Plenty of people are fascinated by sharks, which are undoubtedly some of the most majestic creatures in the ocean, and want to be able to see them up close in their own environment.

If that is the case, there are plenty of options in Hawaii to see sharks without becoming dinner. 

Maui, Hawaii’s shark hotspot, is the obvious first port of call for any shark lover.

Shark Dive Maui, located at Maui Ocean Center, runs absolutely amazing sessions where certified divers can spend 40 minutes with a bunch of different shark species, including tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks, in their 750,000-gallon Open Ocean Exhibit. 

However, arguably the best place in the state to see Hawaii’s sharks in their natural habitat is Oahu’s North Shore area.

Several excellent companies run shark cage diving expeditions from Haleiwa small boat harbor, and you’ll get the chance to jump in the shark cage and view these awesome predators from safety behind the bars.

If you’re feeling extra brave, some companies offer free diving with sharks, guided and protected by a team of expert divers. 

Final Thoughts

There are some 40 different species of shark in Hawaii.

The vast majority of them pose no real threat to humans, though there are a few larger more dangerous species that have been known to attack people from time to time.

Nevertheless, Hawaii is still relatively safe as shark attacks go, and it is a great place to see sharks in the wild.
Mikayla Adams

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