By Jennifer Crites
The Waikiki Aquarium, which celebrates its 100th birthday this March, was originally conceived as a Kapiolani Park attraction that would lure trolley riders to the "suburbs," as Waikiki was known at the dawn of the last century. When the aquarium opened on March 19, 1904, it was one of only a dozen worldwide—and though it is now dwarfed by mega aquariums like the ones at Monterey Bay and Long Beach, it remains, as author Jack London described it, a "wonderful orgy of color and form." Enter its labyrinthine corridors today and you’ll get a close-up look at ornate turkeyfish, fanged moray eels, steely gray jacks and sharks, brain coral, giant clams, pulsating jellyfish and sea dragons. And that’s just a sampling of the 420 species of aquatic animals and plants on display.
Over the years, the aquarium has garnered numerous awards for its innovative exhibits, research and discoveries. Some of its more notable accomplishments include pioneering the cultivation of live coral in aquariums and hatching an embryo of the chambered nautilus. The facility will admit to a few bloopers, too, like the time its crocodile escaped (it was recaptured on Waikiki Beach) and the time a clever octopus pushed open the lid of its tank and slithered out (staff aquarists solved that problem by building a heavier lid and lining the tank with astroturf).
Contact the aquarium for a complete list of all the happenings during the yearlong celebration, as well as info on marine classes, guided reef and shoreline explorations, snorkel trips to Pacific islands, behind-the-scenes tours, volunteer opportunities, concerts and more.