News and Events

Mokupāpapa Discovery Center Relocating to Larger Space

The new location of the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in the Koehnen building in downtown Hilo.
The new location of the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in the Koehnen building in downtown Hilo. Credit: Andy Collins/NOAA

Last month, staff and volunteers from Mokupāpapa: Discovery Center for Hawaiʻi's Remote Coral Reefs packed up displays, fish and memories, moving them three blocks down Hilo's bayfront to the former Koehnen's furniture store location. This move is the first step in expanding the facility.

With five times more space than the old facility, the new location offers many possibilities, including an education complex that will feature an expanded Mokupāpapa Discovery Center, classroom space, a theater and a training center to host workshops with partners from near and far.

Mokupāpapa was opened in May 2003 initially to interpret and provide educational programming about the natural science, culture and history of the then-little known Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding marine environment. Since most people will never have the opportunity to visit these remote islands, the modest 4,000-square-foot Mokupāpapa Discovery Center was conceived to "bring the place to the people" and spur greater public awareness of the region and ocean conservation issues more generally.

Dubbed "the little center that could," Mokupāpapa has hosted more than 60,000 visitors per year – including school groups, community groups, locals and tourists alike; to date, over half a million people have walked through the Center's doors. Mokupāpapa has served as a physical hub of learning for both children and adults, hosting well-attended monthly educational talks, summer programs and outreach activities, while drawing a constant stream of school and community groups from around the State and beyond.

Mokupāpapa was conceived as a cornerstone educational initiative of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, now part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, under the management of NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Coinciding with the 10th year anniversary of Mokupāpapa this summer, NOAA aims to re-open the exhibits on the first floor of the Koehnen Building, expanding its services over time. The move is made possible in these tough fiscal times thanks to the generous support of the Koehnen-Rohner families, who share our vision of education for the community.

For more information about the relocation, contact Andy Collins, (808) 694-3922, or

Read the Press Release.



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