known for it's sunny, dry climate, hence its nickname "The Gold
Coast". Generally speaking, the Kona Coast does not have the four typical
seasons. The difference is only about 15 degrees (F). The winter with snow on
the high volcanoes is the coolest time to year with 72 degrees by mid morning.
In the summer we have 80 degrees by mid morning. The year-round average is a
high in the 90's and a low of about 70 degrees. It's like having late spring or
early fall all year around. By mid afternoon, we can see a cloud cover on our
high volcano peaks to the east which keeps our average temperature very
As the winter season grows, the months
of January through April, the Humpback Whales return to the Kona Coast. Strong
currents can make any beach unsafe at any time during the year, particularly in
the winter. Winter water
temperatures are 75 to 78 degrees.
In the summer water temperatures range 78-81 degrees. The months between
May and October ushers in the return of the Trade Winds. Kona’s coast is not
heavily affected by these winds because of our volcanoes which lay to the
northeast and east of us. The winds are diverted and blocked, creating a wind
shadow along the Kona Coast coastline
One of Hawai`i's most spectacular
natural treasures is the wide variety of marine fishes that occur in the
nearshore waters of the state. Over 400 species of inshore and reef fishes
inhabit Hawai`i's coastal waters.
Reef Fish of Hawaii
There is remarkable diversity among
these fishes. For example, over fifty species of brightly colored wrasses are
found among the reefs, along with nearly thirty species of angelfishes and
butterflyfishes. Large predators such as jacks and sharks also inhabit the reef
area. Each one of the 400-plus species has its own unique role in the nearshore
View Blue Sea Cruises Dinner Cruise in a larger map
The coastal waters of the islands
feature a number of different habitats, each with its own characteristic marine
life. Some fish are at home in sandy bottom areas, others in boulder-strewn
waters off rocky shorelines. Tidepools provide "nursery" areas for
young fish of many species.
Members of this family have
rigid box-like bodies composed of hard scales that are fused together.
Holes in this shell are present for sensory structures, digestive tract, gills,
and fins. The skin of some species produces a toxic mucus under stress.
The toxin is so powerful that it kills anything in a confined space for some
time including itself, so it is unwise to capture or keep these fishes without
the proper facilities. Swimming is done by undulating the dorsal, anal,
and pectoral fins while the caudal fin is reserved for a quick escape. The
family as a whole are referred to as Trunkfishes. Cowfishes have a pair
of spines above the eyes; boxfishes don't. Young are born as females but
only a few will become males during adulthood. They graze upon encrusting
organisms including sponges, tunicates, hydroids, and algae.
If there was a typical coral reef fish, it would
probably be a butterflyfish. Brightly colored (often in yellow) disklike
bodies that travel in pairs. There
are 25 species of Butterflyfishes in Hawaii, 123 throughout the world, of which
five are endemic (two are only found at great depths). The Hawaiians
referred to most species as Lauhau or Kikakapu and did not eat them except
during periods of famine. The most common species is the endemic
Milletseed Butterflyfish, at least around the older islands. It occurs in
large aggregations that feed upon a variety of tiny invertebrates, fish eggs
and zooplankton. It also spawns in large groups rather than forming a
Paired individuals remain together and maintain
well-defined territories. The size of the territory is determined by the
amount of food needed and the amount of effort required to defend it. Live
corals are preyed upon by several species.
Bigeyes may be distinguished from Soldierfishes by their
tiny scales and unforked caudal fin. The dorsal fin is also continuous.
Bigeyes are also much slower in habit and tend to stare at divers and stay put.
They are nocturnal animals that feed upon zooplankton.
Jacks are compressed silvery fishes with a pair of
dorsal and anal fins, stiff, forked tails and narrow caudal peduncles often
protected by a hard ridge of scales known as scutes. In most species the
first anal fin composed of three short spines is embedded in the skin just
behind the anus.
These fishes are carnivores that may form schools or
aggregations in a wide range of habitats including estuaries, bays, reefs, and
the open sea. Some species will hunt opportunistically by trailing other
carnivores as they forage including eels, sharks, and marine mammals.
Most species are valuable food and sport fishes but
large trevallies have been depleted in most areas due to overfishing. Large Carangids feed heavily upon
reef fishes and are the most-likely carriers of ciguatoxin, which causes
serious illness in mammals if eaten.
Many species have long-lived larvae and occur around
the world in warm and temperate waters.
The Moorish Idol is related to the Surgeonfishes and Tangs with tough
skin, tiny scales, and brushlike teeth for grazing upon sponge and
hydroids. In Hawaii they are found singly or in small groups.
Parrotfishes are well-known
for their size and bright colors. In Hawaii they are especially popular
on the dinner table and are a prime target of spear and net fishermen.
They are difficult to approach here, but divers who have been to Midway know
them to be indifferent to humans.
There are three distinct
groups in Hawaii, two of which are the what might be called the typical
Scarids, having fused beaks with a smooth surface. They either have a
gently tapering or blunt, angular head. These feed upon minute algae
cells living within reef rock (coralline algae) and Porites coral. They
grind this material into sand with bony plates in their throat, digest the
algal cells, and expel fine powdery sand as the end product, contributing to
the sediment. The genus Calotomus has a beak with a rough cobblestone surface
used to graze leafy seaweeds.
of both families lack scales and pelvic fins. They inflate themselves
with water to become more difficult for predators to swallow or wedge
themselves into the reef. The caudal fin is reserved for short dashes
while the other fins provide primary locomotion. Puffers have short
velcro-like spines and a pair of fused teeth in each jaw. Porcupinefishes
have stout spines or burrs and each jaw consists of a single cutting
edge. They are carnivorous and eat anything available but shellfish are
Hawaii has only four true snappers at normal diving depths,
two of which were introduced from French Polynesia in the 1950's. An
additional seven deepwater snappers are illustrated here in addition to a
snapper-like relative of the Boga family. The Bigeye
Emperor is a deep-bodied snapper relative that is frequently seen
over coral reefs. Snappers are excellent food fishes and important to
local fisheries. Deepwater snapper stocks have been threatened by overfishing
and competition with the now-abundant Bluestripe Snapper.
Coral and Live Rock of Hawaii
The coral reef is the best known and
most impressive of Hawai`i's nearshore habitats. A healthy reef provides fish
with abundant food resources and protection from predators. It is for this
reason that reefs attract a great deal of marine life. The individual coral
animals which create much of the reef are sensitive to changes in water
quality, as are the microorganisms which form the base of the food chain. A
reef habitat that becomes degraded as a result of pollution or siltation will
lose its ability to support a diversity of marine life. Protecting reef and
other nearshore ecosystems is necessary and challenging.
Stony corals are those which help to build coral reefs. The animals which form
stony corals belong to the same major group as jellyfish and anemones. Most of
them are coIonial, and all secrete a hard skeleton made of calcium carbonate.
The animals themselves, called polyps, form the outer living layer of a coral
colony. Each polyp sits in a cup-like depression called a calyx (pl. calices).
The characteristic color of many
living corals is due to the presence of single-celled algae, called
zooxanthellae,which live inside the coral polyp. The coral and algae have a
mutualistic symbiotic relationship in which each benefits from the other. Most
stony corals produce colonial forms that are attached to the substrate, but a
few are solitary and unattached.
Coral reefs are an important
resource for Hawaii. Corals and coral reefs provide food and habitat for many
fish and invertebrates. Most stony corals grow very slowly, so damaged reefs
may take hundreds of years to recover. Please help us to protect our coral
resources. Taking or damaging coral, live rocks and coral rubble
State law prohibits the breaking or
damaging, with any implement, any stony coral from the waters of Hawaii,
including any reef or mushroom coral. HAR 13-95-70
It is unlawful to take, break or
damage, any implement, any rock or coral to which marine life of any type is
visibly attached. HAR 13-95-71
The taking of sand, coral rubble or
other marine deposits is permitted in certain circumstances. The material may
not exceed one gallon per person per day, and may be taken only for personal,
noncommercial purposes. HRS 171-58.5, HRS 205A-44
Sale of corals
The sale of all species of stony corals which are native to the Hawaiian
Islands is prohibited. HAR 13-95-70
Some examples of native Hawaiian
corals are shown below. This list does not include all native species.
Rose Coral or Cauliflower Coral
The most common Pocillopora in
Hawaii, this coral prefers wave-agitated environments, and is found at depths
down to about 150 feet. Commonly called "rose coral" or
"cauliflower coral," the colonies form cauliflower shaped heads about
10 to 20 inches in diameter. Branches are heavy and leaf-like, and fork bluntly
near the ends. All branches have wart-like projections called verrucae
that are covered with calices. Color of living colonies ranges from brown to
This delicate and fragile coral
forms small bushy clumps up to about 6 inches in diameter. Colonies consist of
fine branches covered with calices. These branches range from long and slender
in calm waters to more robust forms in areas of wave action. Sometimes the
skeleton will create pocket formations around a crab that lives among the
branches. Usually found in protected areas and inner portions of large reef
flats, this species appears to strongly depend on sunlight, as it is rarely
found below about 30 feet. Colonies range in color from light brown in shallow
waters to dark brown in deeper waters.
Colonies consist of thick pipe-like
branches that resemble moose antlers. This species also possesses verrucae and
is usually found in depths of 35 to 150 feet. Live colonies are brown in color
and usually darker than other Pocilloporid corals
This coral produces many encrusting
or massive forms on the reef from the intertidal zone to depths of over 180 feet.
Long narrow cracks found on the coral heads are produced by a type of alpheid
shrimp. Calices have a snowflake-like appearance and are shallow and flush to
the surface. Living colonies range in color from yellowish-green to brown and
Distinguishing features are the
finger-like branching and shallow snowflake-shaped calices. This species is
most common in wave protected areas like bays or deeper reef slopes to depths
of about 150 feet. It has many growth forms, but all of them show some sort of
fingerlike branching. Color of live colonies ranges from light brown to light
The most obvious characteristic of
this coral is the nipplelike projections (papillae) that cover the
surface. These papillae are smooth with no calices on them. Calices are found
on the upper surface of the coral between the papillae. The image of the
calices and papillae create a "rice & pepper" appearance. This
species is found at depths up to about 150 feet. It has a number of growth
forms ranging from platelike to branchlike and encrusting types. Color of
living colonies is usually brown. If the colony is growing in a plate form, the
edges may be white.
Mushroom Coral or Razor Coral
This solitary (single polyp),
free-living (unattached) coral is most commonly found on reef flats, frequently
between cracks and crevices. It has also been found at depths of over 75 feet.
Its disk-like, elliptical shape resembles a mushroom cap and ranges from 1 1/2
to 7 inches in diameter. Some adults may form a high arch in the middle.
Immature forms are attached to the substrate or an adult mushroom coral by a
stalk. It grows into a disk and, when large enough, breaks off the stalk and becomes
free-living. The color of live specimens ranges from pale brown in bright
sunlight to dark brown in shady areas or deeper water.
Orange or Cup Coral
This is a common non-reef building
coral found in shallow Hawaiian waters. This species forms large calices and
occurs in clumps that are 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Living tissue is usually
bright orange in color, but may also appear pink or even black. The bright
coloration is not produced by zooxanthellae. This coral is usually found on
steep ledges, in caves and in shady tidepools.