Does Maui Have Jellyfish? (Types, Photos & Stings Explained)

Located in the southeastern portion of the Hawaiian islands chain, Maui has the best of both worlds with beautiful beaches on the coast and mountainous landscapes that surround the interior low-lands.

Maui is split up into five main regions. A majority of Maui resorts are located in the West and South regions.

Millions of people come to Maui every year to explore the white, red, and black sand beaches the island has to offer. Some of the must-see attractions on Maui include the Maui Ocean Center, Hana Highway, and the black sand beach of Waianapanapa State Park.

Just as the beautiful beaches of Maui attract visitors, marine life is attracted to the waters surrounding the island due to the abundant food sources available within the coral reefs.

So you might be wondering: Does Maui have jellyfish? How likely are you to be stung by a jellyfish while in Maui?

Photo by Tony Webster/Flickr

Jellyfish are not particularly common in Maui, and can be more easily found off the coast of some of Hawaii’s other islands. However, they do drift freely and it’s possible to encounter jellyfish while swimming and surfing in Maui, especially following a full moon.

Common jellyfish species that may be found in Maui, Hawaii include:

  • Moon jellyfish
  • White-spotted jellyfish
  • Upside-down jellyfish
  • Box jellyfish

Although not a jellyfish, the Portuguese man o’ war is a stinging sea creature that looks like a jellyfish and may wash up on Maui shores. Another marine organism that may be found in Hawaiian waters and can produce a sting is sea lice.

Let’s take a closer look at these species, jellyfish calendars and season for Maui, jellyfish stings, and more.


Types of Jellyfish at Maui, HI

There are a few common jellyfish species that inhabit Hawaiian waters, but Maui is one of the safest islands to visit in terms of jellyfish invasions.

Most jellyfish that invade the coasts of Hawaii are found in Oahu waters. Oahu is a Hawaiian island located to the northwest of Maui and separated by the island of Moloka’i.

However, some jellyfish might get lost in the ocean’s current and get pulled towards Maui beaches.

Read on to learn more about these common jellyfish species and sea creatures that could pop up on the coast of Maui!

Moon Jellyfish

By Alexander Vasenin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Moon jellyfish are commonly found throughout the North Pacific and near the shores of the Hawaiian islands. Their preferred habitat is in coastal waters.

Moon jellies are fairly large and can reach up to 24 inches (60 cm) in diameter. They are easily identifiable by four distinct purple circles that appear in the center of the bell. These jellies have a lot of thin, wispy tentacles that surround the outside of the bell.

Unlike other jellyfish, moon jellies do not produce a powerful sting. The sting is very mild and does not cause much pain at all.

Moon jellyfish are most common along the coasts of Waikiki beaches, but they may drift over into Maui waters because they aren’t very good swimmers.

White-spotted Jellyfish

By Papa Lima Whiskey at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

White-spotted jellyfish are most likely to appear in the bays and lagoons surrounding the Maui coast, as this is their preferred habitat.

White-spotted jellies are native to Australia and considered an invasive species in Hawaii.

According to the California Academy of Sciences, white-spotted jellyfish may have traveled so far from their home range due to human activity. The most likely cause is their ability to latch onto ships that can carry them to other areas.

These invasive jellies can negatively impact other Hawaii sea creatures because they consume substantial amounts of zooplankton. As a result, other sea creatures that rely on zooplankton as a primary food source may have difficulty finding food.

White-spotted jellyfish have a clear bell covered with white specks that can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. They possess eight tentacles that are very thick and frilled. 

The venom white-spotted jellyfish produce is nontoxic to humans and delivers a very mild sting.

Upside-down Jellyfish

CiXeL at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Upside-down jellyfish are an invasive species found in Maui waters.

As the name suggests, upside-down jellyfish lay upside on sandy bottoms in shallow coastal waters. These jellies are commonly found resting at the bottom of lagoons and areas with mangroves.

Upside-down jellyfish generally grow to be about 11.8 inches (30 cm) in diameter. Their appearance can be a little deceiving because they look like sea anemones. Their bell is yellow with white spots and they have eight brown to tan colored tentacles.

You may wonder how these jellies are able to get the nutrients they need, since they spend most of their time lying on sandy bottoms. Upside-down jellyfish have a unique symbiotic relationship with a type of algae called zooxanthellae. The other part of the upside-down jellyfish diet is zooplankton.

The reason upside-down jellyfish are considered an invasive species is because of their zooplankton eating habits. Upside-down jellyfish consume so much zooplankton that they can disrupt the natural food chain and outcompete other sea creatures.

The pain from an upside-down jellyfish sting can range from mild to severe, which may depend on the size.

Box Jellyfish

Avispa marina.jpg: Guido Gautsch, Toyota, Japanderivative work: Mithril, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Box jellyfish are the most common jellyfish that inhabit Hawaiian waters.

Beach goers in Maui may encounter box jellyfish if there is an invasion following a full moon. However, box jellyfish are not typically found in Maui waters. They are more common around the coast of Oahu.

There are several species within the box jellyfish family, but only three are known to live in Hawaiian waters. These species include Carybdea alataCarybdea rastoni, and Carybdea Sivickisi

Box jellyfish are capable of producing a very painful sting, but they are not deadly like their Australian relative known as the sea wasp.

Box jellyfish are named for their box-shaped bells. Bell sizes vary depending on the specific box jellyfish species. The largest box jellyfish in Hawaii, Carybdea alata, can grow up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.

Portuguese Man O’ War

By Image courtesy of Islands in the Sea 2002, NOAA/OER. – U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Domain,

The Portuguese man o’ war is a very interesting sea creature because it is composed of multiple organisms called zooids.

These organisms are unable to operate independently and come together to create the Portuguese man o’ war.

Although they are often confused with being jellyfish, the Portuguese man o’ war is classified as a marine organism in the Siphonophore order.

The appearance of a Portuguese man o’ war strongly resembles that of a jellyfish. They have long bluish-purple tentacles that are capable of delivering a very painful sting. The “bell” of a Portuguese man o’ war is completely transparent and looks somewhat like a bubble.

Portuguese men-of-war are commonly seen washed up on Hawaiian shores during periods of strong trade winds. These stinging sea organisms are unable to swim, so they float along the ocean’s surface and are pushed by winds and the ocean’s current.

Sea Lice

Sea lice are very small jellyfish larvae that are considered parasites and can cause skin irritation. Sea lice come from lined sea anemones and the thimble jellyfish.

Both of these marine species are generally found in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is very unlikely for beach goers in Maui to encounter sea lice because they are not common in the Pacific. However, there have been a few reports of people getting sea lice rashes on other Hawaiian island beaches.

When sea lice get trapped in tight, compressed spaces, such as in bathing suits or underneath hair, they feel threatened and initiate their stinging cells.

Sea lice cause irritation to the skin, resulting in a red rash with bumps that may be itchy. Sea lice stings often go unnoticed and people typically don’t realize they have been stung by sea lice until hours later.


Maui Jellyfish Season and Calendar + Stings Explained

The box jellyfish is present in Hawaiian waters year-round. Box jellyfish invasions are expected once a month, approximately 8 to 10 days following a full moon. 

Waikiki Beach and other areas off the coast of Oahu are subject to more box jellyfish invasions than Maui.

An upside-down jellyfish was found in the Kaunakakai Harbor in 2009 after two kids had told their father that the sea creature had stung them. This was the first time that an upside-down jellyfish was reported in Hawaiian waters.

After the incident, the Maui Invasive Species Committee visited the harbor multiple times a year to remove the invasive species from the area.

Portuguese men-of-war have been known to sting beach goers in Hawaiian waters.

During a Portuguese man o’ war invasion in August 2019 on Oahu, over 200 people were stung. There are no reports of anyone being stung by one in Maui.

Hawai’i Beach Safety sends out advisories when there is a jellyfish invasion. You can check out the Hawai’i Beach Safety alerts to stay informed about possible jellyfish invasions or Portuguese man o’ war advisories for the beaches of Maui and other Hawaiian islands.

Overall, Maui is quite safe from jellyfish for the most part — even if you do get stung, barring an allergic reaction your most likely outcome is some moderate pain and swelling that can be treated easily with vinegar.

(Worried about sharks in Maui? Click to read our guide.)


Wrapping Up

Jellyfish are quite uncommon in Maui waters. Most jellyfish that find their way to the coast of Maui may have been brought there by the ocean current. Most jellyfish species that live in Hawaiian waters are found off the coasts of other Hawaiian islands.

Since jellyfish aren’t commonly encountered by beach goers in Maui, you can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities without having to worry about being stung by a jellyfish.

If you want to ensure that you don’t encounter a jellyfish invasion while visiting Maui, you can check out the box jellyfish calendar posted by the Waikiki Aquarium or view the Hawai’i Beach Safety advisory alerts page.

For more guides, check out:

Hope this helps!

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