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Molokini Coral Reefs

Coral polyps, algae, and sunlight are the powerhouses of every incredible reef!

This iconic crater wouldn’t be a world famous snorkeling destination without the marine life attracted by the expansive reef. We celebrate and describe the different species of coral found at Molokini below. With every storm Molokini faces, big waves break the coral within the inner core of the crater, creating space for new habitat. In addition to Mushroom Coral, Spreading Coral (Montipora patula) check out the other kinds of coral below!

a bunch of different colored coral

Seen above, colorful coral in the water surrounding Molokini Crater.

Red Pencil Urchin

The red pencil urchin is a stunning site for divers to see, an abstract sculpture of orangish red that stands out amidst the blue and rainbow-colored coral. Although this animal is not poisonous, it is recommended that snorkelers do not touch the urchin, as it is fragile. The red pencil urchin survives by eating algae. These beautiful creatures can be found in the surge zone along the outer rim, where the shallow water lets in a lot of sunshine and algae is abundant.

Cauliflower Coral

Toughest of the coral species; they have to be, to deal with the constant wave activity. Stubby and flat, unlike the long finger coral that would break easily in this area. Home to shrimps and crabs.

Every spring, cauliflower coral on Molokini spawns several times. The coral spawn in synchronicity, at a precise time right after sunrise. This increases the probability of successful fertilization. The coral release billows of eggs and sperm that appear as clouds of smoke; the clear water becomes milky in just a few minutes, so much so that there is no longer any visibility at all.

Black Coral

In the dark spots of Molokini’s back wall, black coral provides a home to gobies, oysters, and long-nose hawkfish.

Rice Coral (Montipora capitata)

Looks like tiny granules of rice. Every summer, the rice coral on Molokini spawns. Thousands of pink beads of eggs and sperm rise to the surface and mix together. The coral release these bundles when the moon is new.

Orange Cup Coral

Under the ledges of the wall of Molokini, the orange cup coral flourish in colonies. When the current is running, they gather plankton with their tentacles.