Welcome to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
where nature and culture are one.

The Name

The name Papahānaumokuākea commemorates the union of two Hawaiian ancestors – Papahānaumoku and Wākea – who gave rise to the Hawaiian Archipelago, the taro plant, and the Hawaiian people.

Learn more about the meaning, pronunciation and significance »

How do you pronounce it?
What does it mean?

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the largest contiguous fully protected conservation area under the U.S. flag, and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It encompasses 582,578 square miles of the Pacific Ocean (1,508,870 square kilometers) - an area larger than all the country's national parks combined.

See a map of the monument »

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument was established by Presidential Proclamation 8031 on June 15, 2006 under the authority of the Antiquities Act (16 U.S.C. 431-433). It was expressly created to protect an exceptional array of natural and cultural resources. A year later, it was given its Hawaiian name, Papahānaumokuākea.


To forever protect and perpetuate ecosystem health and diversity and Native Hawaiian cultural significance of Papahānaumokuākea.


To carry out seamless integrated management to ensure ecological integrity and achieve strong, long-term protection and perpetuation of NWHI ecosystems, Native Hawaiian culture, and heritage resources for current and future generations.

Spire-like Mokumanamana is one of the many dramatic features in the Monument.
Spire-like Mokumanamana is one of the many dramatic features in the Monument. Credit: Wayne Levin

The 1,350 mile stretch of coral islands, seamounts, banks and shoals supports an incredible diversity of coral, fish, birds, marine mammals and other flora and fauna, many of which are unique to the Hawaiian Island chain. Many of the islands and shallow water environments are important habitats for rare species such as the threatened green turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, as well as the 14 million seabirds representing 22 species that breed and nest there. Land areas also provide a home for four species of bird found nowhere else in the world, including the world's most endangered duck, the Laysan duck.

Boobies perch atop ceremonial shrines in the Monument.
Boobies perch atop ceremonial shrines in the Monument. Credit: Kaleomanuiwa Wong

Papahānaumokuākea is of great importance to Native Hawaiians, with significant cultural sites found on the islands of Nihoa and Mokumanamana, both of which are on the National and State Register for Historic Places. Mokumanamana has the highest density of sacred sites in the Hawaiian Archipelago and has spiritual significance in Hawaiian cosmology.

Learn more about Native Hawaiian cultural heritage »

Papahānaumokuākea is also home to a variety of post-Western-contact historic resources, such as those associated with the Battle of Midway and 19th century commercial whaling.

Learn more about Maritime Heritage »

World Heritage
Sealife abounds on the pristine reefs in the Monument.
Sealife abounds on the pristine reefs in the Monument. Credit: Kaleomanuiwa Wong

On July 30, 2010, Papahānaumokuākea was inscribed as a mixed (natural and cultural) World Heritage Site by the delegates to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) 34th World Heritage Convention in Brasilia Brazil. It is the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States and the second World Heritage Site in Hawaiʻi.

Learn more about World Heritage status »

World Heritage supplemental Brochure (PDF)


Various protection efforts in the region have been enacted over the century, beginning in 1903 when President Theodore Roosevelt sent in the U.S. Marines to stop the slaughter of seabirds for feathers and eggs at Midway Atoll. Over the next 100 years, six U.S. Presidents and one Hawai'i Governor afforded the region increasing protection.

Timeline of protections (PDF)


The Monument has a unique co-management structure, with four Co-Trustees and seven Co-managing agencies. These groups work together to achieve the Monument's vision and mission.

Learn about Management »

Also see the Citizen's Guide (PDF)