I have to admit that when my friend Toby invited me and my family to visit his new marine center client near Honolulu International Airport, I was completely skeptical. Having lived five minutes away in Salt Lake for more than six years, I know the area pretty well frequenting the airport and businesses around there quite a bit. But I nearly fell off my chair when he said “no seriously, there’s a Living Art Marine Center (LAMC) on Ualena Street behind Byron’s Drive Inn and it’s a great family attraction.” THERE’S A WHAT?!

We’re always up for new excursions and any opportunity to enlighten ourselves, so the Kam family accepted the open house invitation and complimentary narrated VIP tour to explore the facilities a couple Saturdays ago. And to our surprise, there IS a wonderful marine center there in between the warehouse facilities in what I’ve only thought of as an industrial park all this time. Who would have guessed? It’s only open three days a week right now – Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday – but they hope to expand as demand hopefully rises.

The LAMC offers 75,000 liters of sea life on display in a variety of tropical fish tanks (seemed like more than a hundred), do-it-yourself workshops (including a special area for kids to do arts/crafts), an aquatic touch tank (with starfish, crabs, and other creatures), and a shark museum. The main feature is the “Tour the Six Oceans” display which takes you on a journey around the tropics to discover how the reef and its inhabitants are quite different and unique in the displays highlighting six areas around the world – Hawaii and Christmas Island, Australia, Philippines and Indonesia, Baja Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Red Sea.

Ensen had a great time looking at all the familiar and sometimes unusual sea life along with all of the other kids. Throughout the tour I kept thinking this is really a great family attraction right in our backyard. Not only is it visually stimulating, but the narrated tour was really well done. The staff is very knowledgeable and the content was interesting.

The tour also included a look a the Voyage Into the Deep, Clownfish” breeding area, Fish collecting boat, and a touch tank where visitors can get hands-on feeling different marine life, such as hermit crabs, starfish, and other creatures of the sea.

Once we were finished looking at all of the exhibits, the families found themselves back in the main building preparing to do some arts/crafts in the workshop area. For an extra cost, you can create Gyotaku fish print t-shirts, seashell decorations, decorate an ipu (gourd), and other fun do-it yourself activities.

Ensen was quite happy making his Gyotaku print. Instead of using real, smelly fish which are used in making authentic prints, the LAMC uses fish “stamps” which parents like me appreciate.

Nothing against smelly, slimy fish, but this alternative worked out just fine as evidenced by photo above. After the print dries, the kids were then able to cut out a border from construction paper to frame the photo. We now have a beautiful Gyotaku print in our condo.

And as we were about to leave, these interesting pieces of art caught my eye and I couldn’t help but snap a photo.  This would actually look quite neat in my office.

After taking the tour and talking with President Richard Xie, it made sense why the LAMC was located here. It’s part of Hawaiian Sealife, a marine ornamental fish business (they export cool fish to pet stores and aquariums). Xie and his team are trying to do their part to showcase the beauty found below the Hawaiian waters, while educating residents and visitors about the hundreds of different species of tropical fish here.

So who exactly is the LAMC is a great experience for? In my humble opinion:

  • local families looking for something new and interesting to do
  • visitors interested in seeing and learning about Hawaii’s marine life (or maybe killing time if your flight happens to get delayed and you don’t want to spend hours at the airport…this place is just 5 minutes away)
  • die-hard aquarium/fish fanatics who want to know more about ornamental fish
  • teachers and their students as an educational too (they do tours for school groups on a regular basis)

While we enjoyed the VIP tour, I can see us returning again to do the self-guided version at our own pace…especially because we have kids who are on their own schedule and program when it comes to experiences like this.

And as the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. The exterior of the LAMC is nothing to look at, but the quality of exhibits inside is what you’re really here for. Go check it out!


Living Art Marine Center
3239 Ualena Street, #100
Honolulu, HI 96819

Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday
Guided Tours: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (90 minutes) – Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday
Reservations: 808-841-8080
Online Information: www.hawaiiansealife.com

Entrance Fees:
Adult: $14.95
Children (4-12): $9.95
Children (3 & under): Free

Adult: $50
Children: (4-12): $35
Children (3 & under): Free

* cost includes Waikiki transportation (pick up twice a day at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. from the Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, and Ala Moana Center). 20 perecent discount off the non-resident rate on Saturday and Sunday without transportation.

[Photo taken by me with my Canon EOS Rebel T1i and a Tamron 18-200mm XR DiII lens.]


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  1. CindySJ says:

    Who knew? I just got a birthday invite to this place, which I’ve never heard of. I googled it and your blog entry came up first. Looks like a great place to visit! Definitely putting it on my must-do list for summer break.

  2. Great article and photos, Nathan!

  3. Kelley says:

    I was wondering if they only do guided tours, but you answered my question. Thanks for sharing this, I’m definitely going to try to take Tristan one of these days.

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