The Mokupāpapa Discovery Center is the interpretive center for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and is run by NOAAʻs Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in partnership with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.
In 2003, the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center (MDC) was established to interpret the natural science, culture and history of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding marine environment. Since most people will never have the opportunity to visit these remote islands, the facility on the bayfront in Hilo, Hawaiʻi serves to “bring the place to the people” and spur greater public awareness of the region and ocean conservation issues.
Mokupāpapa is housed on the Big Island of Hawaii in Hilo’s historic, century old Koehnen Building. The center features a 3,500 gallon saltwater aquarium, interactive educational exhibits, lifesize models of wildlife found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, artwork inspired by those islands and Hawaiian culture, and many interpretive panels in both Hawaiian and English. The beauty of the historic Koehnen building has been preserved and refreshed to show off its majesty, including a koa wood staircase, Hawaiian hardwood floors, and high ceilings.
The aquarium features unique endemic fish from Papahānaumokuākea and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and some that are found nowhere else in the world. Some of the fish featured in the tank include the beautiful bandit angelfish and the orange anthias which were collected during a deep diving research expedition to the Monument. One of the most unique fish is the orange margin butterflyfish which received its scientific name only a few years ago.
Mokupāpapa Discovery Center
76 Kamehameha Avenue
Hilo, Hawaiʻi 96720
Regular business hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00am to 4:00pm.
For more information, call 808-498-4709 or visit papahanaumokuakea.gov/mdc/.
About Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument protects one of the last pristine ocean environments in the world, preserves Native Hawaiian traditions for future generations and safeguards the remains of those lost during World War II’s Battle of Midway. In 2016, President Barack Obama announced the four-fold expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, making it the largest marine protected area in the Northern Hemisphere.
Its extensive coral reefs are home to over 7000 marine species, some found nowhere else in the world. Monument residents include endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, 14 million seabirds, sharks, billfish, tuna and four species of endangered birds that are endemic to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands: the Nihoa Finch, Nihoa Millerbird, Laysan Finch, and Laysan Duck.
The monument’s role in maritime and cultural heritage is equally significant. With the highest density of sacred sites in the archipelago, it is closely tied to the Hawaiian peoples’ history. Within the boundaries are more than 60 known shipwreck sites spanning centuries as well as Midway Atoll, where the US forces irreparably damaged the Japanese fleet in the famous WWII battle.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is part of our essential network of marine protected areas which protect significant areas in our ocean, coasts and Great Lakes. The National Marine Sanctuary System is comprised of 14 individual sites and spans more than 600,000 square miles of American waters.