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Hawaii is well known for its beautiful beaches, stunning waterfalls, and breathtaking oceans and seas. For an island state located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it’s no surprise that water plays a crucial role in shaping the geography, climate, economy, and culture of the Hawaiian Islands. If you’re researching the major bodies of water in Hawaii, you’ve come to the right place.

In a nutshell, the main bodies of water in Hawaii are the Pacific Ocean, the island channels between the Hawaiian islands, lakes such as Lake Wilson on Kauai, and waterfalls like Akaka Falls on the Big Island. We’ll go into more detail below.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the major oceans, channels, lakes, streams and waterfalls that make up the beautiful aquatic landscapes of Hawaii. With sections covering over 15 major bodies of water and fun facts about each, you’ll learn all about the unique and magnificent waters that bless the Hawaiian Islands.

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest ocean on Earth, covering more than 63 million square miles. It borders the eastern coast of Hawaii, making it a vital body of water for the islands. The Pacific Ocean is known for its stunning beauty, with turquoise blue waters, vibrant coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life.

Importance to Hawaii

The Pacific Ocean plays a crucial role in the economy and ecosystem of Hawaii. It provides endless opportunities for water-based activities such as swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and fishing, attracting millions of tourists each year. The ocean also supports a diverse range of marine species, including sea turtles, dolphins, and humpback whales, which can be spotted during their annual migration to Hawaiian waters.

Moreover, the Pacific Ocean influences Hawaii’s climate and weather patterns. The ocean acts as a heat reservoir, moderating the temperature and bringing pleasant trade winds that keep the islands cool and comfortable. These trade winds are also essential for the growth of agriculture, particularly in windward areas where they provide moisture for crops.

Conservation Efforts

Recognizing the importance of the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii’s ecosystem, there have been significant efforts to protect and preserve its resources. The State of Hawaii has established several marine conservation areas and protected zones, such as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. These protected areas help safeguard the ocean’s biodiversity and contribute to the long-term sustainability of Hawaii’s marine ecosystem.

Furthermore, organizations like the Pacific Whale Foundation and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii work tirelessly to educate the public about the importance of ocean conservation. They organize beach cleanups, conduct research, and promote sustainable practices to ensure the health and vitality of the Pacific Ocean for future generations.

Visiting the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii is not only an opportunity to enjoy its natural beauty but also a chance to learn about the importance of ocean conservation and contribute to its preservation. So, the next time you visit the islands, take a moment to appreciate the majesty of the Pacific Ocean and do your part in protecting this invaluable resource.

Channels Between the Islands

Hawaii, with its stunning landscapes and pristine beaches, is made up of multiple islands. These islands are not only connected by air and land but also by a network of channels that separate them. These channels, also known as straits, play a vital role in the transportation and exchange of marine life, as well as providing breathtaking views for visitors and locals alike. Let’s explore some of the major channels between the islands of Hawaii.

Kaiwi Channel

The Kaiwi Channel, also known as the Molokai Channel, is a stretch of water that separates the islands of Oahu and Molokai. Known for its strong currents and rough waters, this channel has become a popular destination for open water swimmers and endurance athletes looking to test their limits. The annual Kaiwi Channel Swim is an iconic event where swimmers brave the challenging conditions to cross the 26-mile channel. It’s truly a testament to the indomitable human spirit.

Alenuihāhā Channel

The Alenuihāhā Channel, located between the islands of Hawaii and Maui, is known for its unpredictable and treacherous waters. With strong winds, powerful currents, and large swells, this channel demands respect and caution from sailors and boaters. However, the challenges it presents are balanced by its stunning natural beauty. As you cross the channel, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the towering cliffs of Molokai and the majestic peaks of Maui. It’s an awe-inspiring experience that reminds us of the raw power of nature.

Kalohi Channel

The Kalohi Channel, situated between the islands of Molokai and Lanai, is a relatively calm and peaceful channel compared to its counterparts. Its tranquil waters make it a popular spot for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and sailing. As you explore this channel, you’ll be surrounded by the serene beauty of the Hawaiian coastline, with its rugged cliffs and pristine beaches. It’s a perfect spot to relax, unwind, and connect with nature.

Auau Channel

The Auau Channel, located between the islands of Lanai and Maui, is known for its abundant marine life and crystal-clear waters. Snorkelers and scuba divers flock to this channel to explore its vibrant coral reefs and encounter a variety of tropical fish and sea turtles. During the winter months, the channel also becomes a playground for humpback whales, who migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters to give birth and nurse their young. It’s a magical experience to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Exploring the channels between the islands of Hawaii offers a unique perspective on the beauty and diversity of this archipelago. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking to conquer the Kaiwi Channel or a nature lover wanting to immerse yourself in the underwater wonders of the Auau Channel, these channels provide endless opportunities for adventure and appreciation of Hawaii’s natural wonders.

Hawaii’s Largest Lakes

Lake Wilson (Kauai)

When it comes to the largest lakes in Hawaii, Lake Wilson on the island of Kauai takes the spotlight. Also known as Wahiawa Reservoir, Lake Wilson covers an impressive 331 acres of land. The reservoir serves as a vital source of irrigation for the surrounding agricultural areas and provides a picturesque backdrop for locals and visitors alike. Whether you enjoy fishing, boating, or simply taking in the serene beauty of nature, Lake Wilson is a must-visit destination in Kauai.

Lake Waiau (Big Island)

Another significant body of water in Hawaii is Lake Waiau, located on the Big Island. What makes Lake Waiau unique is its high elevation, sitting at an impressive 13,020 feet above sea level. This alpine lake is nestled within the Mauna Kea volcano and is a sacred site for the native Hawaiian people. Despite its small size, measuring only about 100 feet in diameter, Lake Waiau holds great cultural and spiritual significance. Its crystal-clear waters and stunning views make it a popular spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts.

Kāneʻohe Bay (Oahu)

Although not a traditional lake, Kāneʻohe Bay on the island of Oahu deserves mention when discussing the major bodies of water in Hawaii. This bay is a natural wonder, encompassing approximately 5.5 square miles of stunning turquoise waters. Kāneʻohe Bay is home to a diverse marine ecosystem, including vibrant coral reefs, sea turtles, and various species of fish. It offers plenty of opportunities for water activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Its proximity to the city of Honolulu makes it a convenient and breathtaking escape for both locals and tourists.

For more information on Hawaii’s major bodies of water, you can visit the official website of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources at

Famous Waterfalls

Akaka Falls (Big Island)

If you’re visiting the Big Island of Hawaii, make sure to visit the majestic Akaka Falls. Standing at an impressive 442 feet, this waterfall is a sight to behold. As you walk through the lush rainforest, you’ll be greeted by the sound of rushing water and the sight of the cascading falls. It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s beauty. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture this stunning natural wonder!

Waimoku Falls (Maui)

Located in the breathtaking Haleakala National Park, Waimoku Falls is a must-see for anyone visiting Maui. This towering waterfall drops an impressive 400 feet into a picturesque pool below. To reach Waimoku Falls, you’ll need to embark on a hike along the Pipiwai Trail. This scenic trail takes you through bamboo forests, past tranquil streams, and eventually leads you to this magnificent waterfall. The journey is well worth it, as the reward is a truly unforgettable sight.

Puu o Mahuka Heiau Waterfall (Oahu)

While Oahu is known for its stunning beaches and vibrant city life, it is also home to some hidden gems, such as the Puu o Mahuka Heiau Waterfall. Located on the North Shore of Oahu, this waterfall is surrounded by lush vegetation and offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Take a moment to soak in the beauty of this serene waterfall and connect with nature in a truly magical setting.

Seven Sacred Pools (Maui)

The Seven Sacred Pools, also known as the Pools of Ohe’o, are a series of cascading waterfalls and pools located in the Haleakala National Park on Maui. This enchanting destination is a favorite among visitors and locals alike. Take a refreshing dip in the clear, cool waters or simply relax and enjoy the stunning views. The Seven Sacred Pools are a true paradise and a must-visit spot on your Maui itinerary.

Notable Streams and Rivers

Hawaii is blessed with an abundance of natural wonders, including its impressive streams and rivers. These waterways not only provide breathtaking scenery but also play a crucial role in the island’s ecosystem. Let’s explore some of the notable streams and rivers in Hawaii.

Wailua River (Kauai)

The Wailua River, located on the island of Kauai, is often referred to as the “River of Kings.” It stretches over 20 miles, making it the longest navigable river in Hawaii. This majestic waterway meanders through lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and ancient Hawaiian villages. It offers visitors a chance to experience the natural beauty of Hawaii through activities like kayaking, boating, and even river cruises. The Wailua River is truly a hidden gem waiting to be explored.

Waiāhole Ditch (Oahu)

On the island of Oahu, you’ll find the Waiāhole Ditch, a man-made waterway that has played a significant role in the island’s agriculture and irrigation systems. Stretching approximately 13 miles, this ditch diverts water from the Waiāhole River to various agricultural lands on the windward side of the island. The Waiāhole Ditch not only ensures the growth of crops but also serves as a reminder of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Hawaiian people.

Waiheʻe River (Maui)

Maui, known for its stunning beaches and breathtaking landscapes, is also home to the Waiheʻe River. This river flows through the Waiheʻe Valley, offering visitors a unique opportunity to explore the island’s natural wonders. With its crystal-clear waters and lush surroundings, the Waiheʻe River is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking along its banks, swimming in its refreshing pools, and even trying your hand at fly fishing are just a few of the activities that await you in this tropical paradise.

Wailuku River (Big Island)

The Big Island of Hawaii boasts the magnificent Wailuku River, which flows through the stunning Wailuku River State Park. This river is famous for its dramatic waterfalls, most notably the Rainbow Falls and the Boiling Pots. The Rainbow Falls, named for the rainbows that often appear in the mist, is a mesmerizing sight to behold. The Boiling Pots, on the other hand, are a series of pools and cascades created by ancient lava flows. The Wailuku River and its captivating waterfalls are a must-see for anyone visiting the Big Island.

As you can see, Hawaii is not just about its pristine beaches and breathtaking landscapes; it is also home to a network of remarkable streams and rivers. These waterways hold significant cultural, historical, and ecological importance to the Hawaiian people. Exploring these notable streams and rivers is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of the Hawaiian Islands.


As you can see, despite being a small island state, Hawaii is home to a diverse range of beautiful and iconic bodies of water. From the powerful Pacific Ocean to the tranquil lakes and waterfalls within its valleys, Hawaii’s aquatic landscapes contribute enormously to its stunning natural scenery and environment.

So next time you’re enjoying Hawaii’s beaches, oceans and waterfalls, take a moment to appreciate the natural wonder of its unique island waters. We hope this overview gave you a helpful introduction to the major bodies of water that bless the Aloha State!

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