Hawaii is known for its pristine beaches, lush jungles, and active volcanoes. But could there be dangerous reptiles lurking in those tropical waters? Let’s explore whether crocodiles can be found in the Aloha State.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: No, there are no crocodiles currently living in the wild in Hawaii today.

In this article, we’ll look at the historical and current crocodile population in Hawaii, reasons why crocodiles don’t thrive there, the differences between crocodiles and alligators, and whether captive crocodiles are kept in Hawaii.

Historical Crocodile Populations in Hawaii

Fossil Evidence of Ancient Crocodiles

Fossil evidence reveals that crocodiles once lived on the Hawaiian Islands, but went extinct prior to the arrival of humans. In 2005, paleontologists discovered fossils of a previously unknown species of crocodile at a site on O’ahu estimated to be 20-25 million years old. Bishop Museum researchers named this ancient crocodile species Volia atholus.

Additional crocodile fossils have also been found on other islands like Maui and Kauai.

These discoveries indicate that crocodiles inhabited the Hawaiian archipelago for millions of years, likely arriving after being swept out to sea from elsewhere. However, major climate changes and volcanic eruptions during the Pleistocene era about 10,000 years ago are thought to have caused the extinction of crocodiles in Hawaii prior to the arrival of Polynesian settlers.

Crocodile Introductions in the 1800s

While no crocodiles existed in Hawaii at the time of Western contact in the late 18th century, a handful of failed attempts were made to introduce crocodiles to the islands in the mid to late 1800s.

In 1809, a merchant ship brought two crocodiles from Manila to Honolulu as a gift for King Kamehameha I. However, both crocodiles reportedly died soon after arrival. In the 1860s, a few more crocodiles were brought to Hawaii from Malaysia, again as exotic gifts.

But these imports also perished quickly in captivity.

The only documented case of a crocodile breeding in Hawaii occurred after a man named Dr. Nimrod Davis imported three crocodiles from Singapore to Kauai in 1896. Two of the crocodiles escaped, but the third was kept on Davis’s estate.

This crocodile laid 13 eggs, though only one hatched successfully in 1900. The baby crocodile was named Dino and was transferred to Honolulu’s Kapiolani Park in 1904. However, Dino died after just two years at the park.

Efforts to re-establish crocodile populations ultimately failed. The species proved unable to thrive in Hawaii’s environment. Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources confirms no breeding populations of crocodiles have ever existed in the wild in Hawaii.

Why There Are No Wild Crocodiles in Hawaii Today

Unsuitable Habitat

Hawaii’s islands simply do not offer the kind of habitat that crocodiles need to thrive. Crocodiles typically live in freshwater rivers, swamps, and marshes in tropical climates. However, Hawaii has relatively few large freshwater sources, and rainfall is sporadic.

The islands’ volcanic geology means the terrain is rocky and lacks expansive wetland areas. Overall, the habitat is not conducive to sustaining crocodile populations.

Lack of Prey

Even if they could find suitable living spaces, crocodiles would struggle to find enough food in Hawaii. Their diet mainly consists of fish, birds, small mammals, and sometimes larger prey like deer. However, Hawaii has no native terrestrial mammals, few freshwater fish species, and only two native land bird species.

Introduced mammal species like pigs and deer inhabit some areas, but likely not in large enough numbers to feed many crocodiles. The limited food options would make survival difficult.

Eradication Efforts

Humans have likely played a role in removing any crocodiles that may have once inhabited Hawaii. Indigenous Hawaiians were skilled hunters and presumably would have eliminated crocodiles had they posed a threat.

Later, American colonists and plantation owners tried to eradicate crocodiles and other reptiles out of concern they would harm livestock or attack people. Though evidence is limited, it seems plausible early settlers would have killed off any remaining crocodiles, if they existed.

Differences Between Crocodiles and Alligators


Crocodiles and alligators occupy different natural habitats. Crocodiles are found in areas such as Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas in environments like freshwater marshes, mangrove swamps, rivers, and lakes.

In contrast, alligators mainly inhabit freshwater wetlands in China and the southeastern United States (Source).

Snout Shape

The shapes of their snouts also set crocodiles and alligators apart. Crocodiles tend to have longer, more pointed, V-shaped snouts, while those of alligators are wider and U-shaped. This difference allows each species to eat different types of prey – fish and mammals for crocodiles, versus mollusks and turtles for alligators (Source).


On average, crocodiles grow much larger than alligators. For example, saltwater crocodiles can reach over 20 feet long and weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Comparatively, American alligators measure around 13 feet long on average and weigh about 500 pounds (Source).

The largest crocodile ever found was a massive 20.24 foot long male weighing 2,370 pounds (Source)!


Crocodiles tend to be more aggressive than alligators in disposition and behavior. Both are apex predators, but crocodiles are known to attack anything, including humans, that encroaches on their territory. Alligators generally shy away from humans unless provoked or defending their young (Source).

Surprisingly, the number of fatal attacks per year averages only 7 for crocodiles and 1 for alligators worldwide (Source).

Captive Crocodiles in Hawaii

While there are no wild crocodiles in Hawaii, there have been a few instances of captive crocodiles and alligators being kept on the islands over the years. Here’s an overview of the presence of captive crocs and gators in Hawaii:

Early Captive Crocodiles

In the early 1900s, a few small zoos and private collectors brought crocodilians to Hawaii as exotic pets or zoo exhibits. However, keeping large, dangerous reptiles in captivity was controversial even back then.

For example, in 1917, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper reported that a man was bitten by an alligator he had imported to Oahu. This caused public concern about the risks of keeping such animals on the islands.

Modern Facilities

These days, there are a handful of licensed facilities in Hawaii that keep crocodilians for conservation, education or commercial purposes:

  • Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo has a few American alligators.
  • A small family-owned zoo on Maui has some spectacled caiman.
  • At least one Oahu farm breeds alligators and processes their meat and hides.

The number of captive crocs in Hawaii is still very small, likely less than 50 in total. Facilities must adhere to strict regulations and safety protocols to house them.

Escapes and Risks

There have been a couple incidents of escaped captive crocs in Hawaii over the past decades:

  • In 2010, an 8-foot alligator escaped from a Maui zoo during tropical storm flooding. It was safely captured a few weeks later.
  • In 2015, Honolulu police tasered a caiman that had gotten loose from an exotic animal breeder.

While frightening, these events have been very rare and the animals were sempre recaptured. Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture monitors facilities with crocodilians closely to prevent additional scapes.


While crocodiles are not found in the wild in Hawaii today, there is fossil evidence that they once lived on the islands long ago. A few crocodiles were brought to Hawaii in the 1800s but failed to establish breeding populations.

Hawaii lacks the habitat, prey sources, and climate that crocodiles need to thrive. Strict laws now prohibit people from importing exotic species to the islands. So rest assured next time you’re frolicking on a Hawaiian beach-you only need to watch out for gentle sea turtles, not ferocious crocs!

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