Turtle Town may have gotten its name from the large population of honu in the area, but long before it became a top recommended snorkeling destination, Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles made their mark in the spirit of the Hawaiian Islands. Considered ‘aumakua, or guardian spirits, by some ancient families, Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles were once used as a food source and utilized for medicine, tools, jewelry, containers, utensils, and as an offering to Kanaloa, the God of the Ocean. On the Big Island in the Pu’u Loa lava fields, there is even an ancient petroglyph of a turtle swimming.Since turtles are known for their remarkable ability to find their way home after long stretches of time in the open ocean, Hawaiians have related this to the same skills involved in ocean navigation, a longstanding source of pride for the Hawaiian population that originated with the first Polynesian settlers. Commonly featured in Polynesian art and tattoo design, honu continue to be highly respected as an integral part of Hawaiian culture today.
Feeding on a mixture of seagrass and several varieties of algae, known as limu, sea turtles can be seen in large numbers everywhere throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and especially Turtle Town, where algae grows in abundance on the coral reef formations. Watch as they glide effortlessly over the shallow reef, through breaking waves and into underwater caves and you’ll see why they remain one of Maui’s most beloved animals.