Wildlife travel: What animals can I see in Hawaii?

The jaw-dropping scenery of the 50th state of the USA may be familiar from its starring appearances in US TV dramas, but the islands' amazing wildlife demands that you visit for yourself.

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Illustration by Dawn Cooper

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1. Hawaiian hoary bat, Koke’e State Park, Kauai

Experts believe that Hawaii’s only endemic terrestrial mammal must have been blown over from either North or South America, where it is known simply as the hoary bat.

2. Manta ray, Olowalu, Maui

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Manta ray © Dave Fleetham / Getty

Olowalu Reef has a cleaning station visited by 350 filter-feeding elasmobranchs. The Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research is campaigning for better protection for these gentle giants.

3. I’iwi, Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge

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I’iwi © Danita Delimont / Getty

The I’iwi, or Hawaiian honeycreeper, is just one of at least 51 honeycreepers that evolved from a single ancestor between four and five million years ago – and may be the most spectacular of them all.

4. Néné, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

The nene (Branta sandvicensis), also known as nēnē and Hawaiian goose, is a species of goose endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. The official bird of the state of Hawaiʻi, the nene is exclusively found in the wild on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauaʻi, Molokai, and Hawaiʻi.

Néné © Luis Castaneda, Inc. / Getty

Reduced to a population of about 30 in the 1950s, the Néné, or Hawaiian goose, has recovered thanks to captive breeding. Look for it in the parking lot of the Jaggar Museum or at the Volcano Golf and Country Club.

5. Hawaiian monk seal, O’ahu

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Hawaiian monk seal ©  Mint Images, Frans Lanting / Getty

A remote beach on O’ahu is as good a place as any to try to see this endangered endemic mammal, though the largest population (up to 800) is in the distant and rarely visited northwestern Hawaiian islands.

6. Spinner dolphins, La Perouse Bay, Maui

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Spinner dolphin © Dave Fleetham / Getty

Known for their amazing breaches, spinner dolphins are usually found out to sea, but in Hawaii they come quite close to the shore.

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