July 4: Honoring Hawaii’s Green Sea Turtles Too

Why These Hawaii’s Green Sea Turtles Were Released Into The Wild

The Big Island of Hawaii is the host for something that’s as much about cultural heritage and conservation as it is about celebration. The annual celebration of Turtle Independence Day at the Mauna Lani Resort has become a cherished tradition that attracts locals and visitors alike who come to witness the release of green sea turtles, also known as “honu,” back into the ocean.

The event is part of a larger Mālama Honu, Mālama Honua program, initiated in 1989, which emphasizes the importance of greater education and conservation of these endangered creatures.

Green sea turtle release annual event highlights.

Turtle Independence Day is a day filled with festivities and educational opportunities. The green sea turtles scheduled for release have been cared for in saltwater ponds at the hotel for two to three years, having been born at Oahu’s Sea Life Park. The event provides a chance to see these magnificent creatures up close and educates the public on the importance of their conservation.

This year’s turtle celebration.

This year’s celebration continued the tradition with a vibrant atmosphere and various activities. The event featured a parade led by hula dancers, a blessing ceremony, and a variety of local food trucks offering traditional 4th of July fare. Hundreds of visitors gathered to witness the release of the turtles, which are given names as part of the cultural aspect of the event, reinforcing the idea that these animals are part of the wild and not pets.

The historical context of Turtle Independence Day.

The first Turtle Independence Day was on July 4, 1990, when four captive-bred and pond-reared honu were released at the shoreline. Over the years, the event has grown in popularity and significance, becoming a symbol of conservation and cultural heritage. A notable past release includes a turtle found at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, originally released on July 4, 1999, demonstrating the program’s long-term success.

Event details.

Date and time is every July 4th, typically from 10:30 AM to 12:00 noon.

Location is the Mauna Lani Resort, which is 23 miles north of Kona International Airport on the Big Island.

Activities include live entertainment, educational displays about Hawaiian green sea turtles, island food trucks offering traditional 4th of July fare, plus vendors and great, unique t-shirts (yes, we bought them). Visitors can also explore the 11-acre historical Kalahuipuaa Fishponds, a fascinating living coastal museum maintained to this day.

Hawaiian Green Turtle

Cultural significance of Honu.

Green sea turtles hold a special place in Hawaiian culture. The back of the turtle’s shell represents the world, symbolizing the connection between the physical and spirit worlds, and no two are alike. The event helps to raise public awareness about the turtles’ importance and the need for their conservation, especially given the challenges they face due to human activities and encroachment.

Visitor Tips for taking part in Turtle Independence Day.

Arrive early to secure a good viewing spot. It’s recommended to arrive around 9 AM. Expect it to be very crowded. Bring abundant sunscreen, hats, and comfortable clothing.

Turtle Independence Day at Mauna Lani Resort is more than just a festive event; it is a powerful reminder of the importance of conservation and cultural heritage. By participating in this celebration, attendees enjoy a unique experience and contribute to the ongoing efforts to protect and preserve Hawaii’s green sea turtles. Mark your calendars for next year’s event and be part of this meaningful celebration.

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