Mokupapapa Discovery Center in Hilo

The ground floor of the Koehnen building,  76 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo suggests 1920s grandeur with a wide staircase leading to law offices back in the day.  The building ocupies the corner of Waianuenue Avenue and Kamehameha Avenue  — powerful names in Hawai’i.  King Kamehameha unified the Hawaiian people and Waianuenue refers to rainbows in falling water.


Koehnen Building, Hilo waterfront


Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

The facade is akin to other early 20th c. commercial properties along the waterfront


Visiting students learn about Pacific marine ecology.

walk. But the Koehnen building has been revamped and repurposed for a global purpose.   The Mokupapapa Center is a marine education center run by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration founded in 1970.

NOAA offers community events and presentations to educate students and visitors about Papahanaumokuakea (Pa-pa-han-au-mo-kua-kea) Marine National Monument in the far western Pacific.  The National Marine Sanctuary contains the remote coral atolls of Hawai’i and is truly one of the last wild places on earth.

The Marine Sanctuary is also one action by President George W. Bush that many people can agree with, though even protected marine areas are still vulnerable to deep sea mining and fossil fuel exploration.  It’s not clear whether those exploration permits include access to the extensive stretch of the Pacific Ocean included in the National Marine Monument.


Aquarium in the Mokupapapa Discovery Center, Hilo

NOAA Marine Nat Monument Chart

Volunteers may apply to be selected for participation in wildlife census projects on the various remote islands of the Hawaiian archipelago.  Work projects last from several weeks to 6 months.  Participants contribute financial support to partially cover their expenses, approximately $2,000 for travel, tent lodging and food costs for 4 to 6 months for most of the projects.  The volunteer census projects should not be viewed as an exotic low-cost vacation; the work is not easy and conditions are tough. Experience with biological data collection, daily life in extreme conditions plus a buoyant natural camaraderie are required skills.  The application form  weeds out people who are simply collecting awesome experiences or checking notches off a bucket list.


Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

The Midway Atoll  National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial previously admitted visitors, but that has been suspended.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center, 76 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo, HI 96720

808.933.8195  email:

Open: Tues-Sat 9 am to 4 pm. Closed on federal holidays. Admission free.

About patwa

Dedicated reader, writer, and traveler. Book reviewer France Travel Adventures in writing Pyrenees Pilgrimage is about walking across France alone through the Pyrenees Mountains. It is available in Kindle or print-on-demand.
This entry was posted in Education, Geography, Hawai'i, History, Marine Science, Nature, Oceanography, Outdoors Life, Travel, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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