A Hawksbill at Honaunau

WHAT: Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) - Hawaiian name: Honu'ea

WHERE: I photographed this turtle at Honaunau Bay, on the southeastern coast of Hawaii's Big Island.

Hawksbille Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

We see this species of sea turtle infrequently in Hawaii, so it's always nice to cross paths with one. Hawksbills have been known to nest on the eastern coast of the Big Island, but they are not plentiful. Seeing one on the western coast of the island always is an event worth noting.

Unlike the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, which are primarily vegetarians, Hawksbill turtles eat sponges and small invertebrates in addition to algae.  We  have not observed Hawksbill feeding behavior in Hawaii, but elsewhere we have seen them munching soft corals and sponges.  We once spent most of a dive watching as a Hawksbill turtle methodically devoured a tube sponge, gnawing it and pulling away hunks until there was nothing left of the sponge but a stub!

For more information about this endangered species, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hawksbill Sea Turtle Fact Sheet.


  1. Quite a beauty. This does look like the "quintessential sea turtle" that one hears about. I did go to read the fact sheet about them, including their endangered status. It sounds like they're more plentiful in the Atlantic and Caribbean, so it must be a treat to see one off Hawaii.

  2. Hi Catsynth - Yes, Hawksbills are much more plentiful in the Caribbean. The one I mentioned that laid waste to the sponge was in the Caribbean. We have seen Hawksbills in the Red Sea, too. The most, in number, that we have seen were in Indonesian waters in and around the Bunaken marine park, but even there, they were greatly outnumbered by Green sea turtles.


  3. Beautiful image Bobbie, must have been a thrill to photograph, nicely done !!

  4. Aloha Bobbie,
    There is always something new to learn from your 'The Right Blue' posts. Hawksbills turtles at Honaunau on the Big Island? I didn't know. And what a great photo!

    I am sure our Big Island visitors are enjoying seeing the plentiful turtles at Honaunau when snorkeling the Bay.

    Aloha, Pua
    Best Hawaii Vacations blog

  5. What a beatiful looking creature. Their grace in the water is surprising, especially as a result of their girth.

  6. Aloha All,
    We're gathering Hawaiian hawksbill sightings for our ongoing distribution and abundance research project, so if anyone would like to contribute (photos or just location sightings) we'd really appreciate it!
    Hawai'i Wildlife Fund
    Hawksbill Recovery Project


We welcome your comments and invite your questions. Dialogue is a good thing!

Bobbie & Jerry