Explore Island Ecosystems

Beyond the CityOahu


The island of O‘ahu measures 597 square miles; that’s just slightly larger than the city of Houston. But within that area, 150 ECOSYSTEMS — from tropical dry rainforest to coastal dunes-flourish. Altogether, there are about 150 ecosystems on Hawai‘i, and O‘ahu is a great place to begin exploring.

However, these island ecosystems are under constant threat of imbalance or loss to invasive species, weather change and overuse. Recently, a management plan was created to maintain KAILUA BEACH‘s unique coastal dune and beach system that so far remains relatively intact. The waters off of Kailua Beach also are host to bird sanctuaries on FLAT ISLAND and MOKULUA ISLANDS , giving safe harbor to the wedge-tailed shearwater, or ‘u‘au kani, which is indigenous to Hawai‘i.

Also located in Kailua is KAWAINUI MARSH, the largest remaining wetland in Hawai‘i and home to a heiau (temple) and other sites of cultural significance, along with endangered and introduced wildlife, and remains of a unique ecosystem that played an important role in traditional Hawaiian life, as well as modern-day flood management and nature preservation.

You also can pick up a good read, or two, to revisit after your vacation is over. Local author and proprietor Robert Wintner, also known as SNORKEL BOB, has several books available that dive deeper into the topic of Hawai‘i’s protected reefs and the marine animals that call them home. Every Fish Tells a Story records the tales of fish and their underwater communities through stunning photos taken by Snorkel Bob himself, while the tome Neptune Speaks and the novel Flame Angels both highlight the values of wilderness and the need to protect our natural resources.

All books are available at Snorkel Bob’s outfitters on all islands, and 100 percent of proceeds from book sales support the campaign to stop the aquarium trade.