Honu – Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

I went to Maui thinking the whales would be the best part but it was the green sea turtles who stole my heart! Almost every afternoon a few turtles would make their way onto the beach to bask in the sun and enjoy an afternoon nap!

The most common sea turtle species in Hawaii is by far the Hawaiian green sea turtle (honu). They are regularly found resting under underwater ledges, basking on beaches, and nibbling on algae in shallow waters. The average shell length of an adult honu is 4-5 feet long and weight of 250 pounds, although they can grow as large as 500 pounds.

Despite their name, green sea turtles do not actually appear “green” – at least from the outside. Instead, the name “green” comes from the color of their internal fat tissue, which is green due to a diet that primarily consists of algae. Green sea turtles are commonly seen calmly cruising Maui’s reefs, but when spooked can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

In addition to feeding and resting, honu in Hawaii can also be observed basking on select beaches.This behavior, thought to be a way to conserve energy or boost body temperature, has only been witnessed in Australia, the Galapagos Islands and Hawaii.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are protected under state and federal laws

More than 90% of Hawaiian green sea turtles nest in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. If you’re a Maui turtle, that’s a ~650 mile swim, one way! It takes turtles about one month to swim there and another month to swim back, so they don’t nest or migrate to mate every year. Depending on their health and age, they make this journey every 2-7+ years.