Go Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay is a former volcanic crater ten miles east of Waikiki. The bay gets its name from the Hawaiian “hana” for bay and “uma” for curve, so the name literally translated means “curved bay.”
Hanauma Bay is everything you could want in a Hawaiian beach, with scenery that’s been featured in several movies, including Elvis’ Blue Hawaii and John Wayne’s Donovan’s Reef. The real draw to Hanauma Bay, however, lies beneath the waves. The bay is one of the most popular snorkeling destinations in Hawaii.
The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay was decreed a protected marine life conservation center in 1967. Today, the bay is home to over four hundred species of fish, including the reef triggerfish or Humuhumunukunukuapua'a—the little fish with a big name that’s the state fish.
In addition to the many fish that call the bay home, snorkelers can spot sea urchins, octopus, moray eels, and a wide range of invertebrates, many of which are found only in Hawaiian waters. If you’re lucky, you may see eagle rays or a small reef shark.
Green Sea Turtles
For most snorkelers, the highlight of a trip to Hanauma Bay are the green sea turtles, also referred to as honu. Turtles are often seen in the shallow waters of the reef, where they eat limu, or seaweed.
Honu are a protected species, and it’s illegal to touch or otherwise harass one. If you get to close honu may yawn at you or, if they’re particularly stressed, swipe a front flipper over their forehead. This is turtle talk for “leave me alone.” If you see a honu make either of these motions, give it a little more space.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Admission
Hanauma Bay is open every day except Mondays & Tuesdays, this allows the fish and the bay to have two undisturbed rest days. The bay is also closed on Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The park opens at 6:45 a.m. and closes at 4:00 p.m., and no one is allowed entry after 2:00 p.m.
Admission to the park is $25.00 per adult. Children ages twelve and younger get in free, as do active military personnel and Hawaii residents with valid identification. First-time visitors are required to watch a short nine-minute video about marine life, conservation, and snorkeling safety. Once the video is over, you get to the beach along a steep ten-minute path. If you don’t fancy the walk, take the tram.
Parking is $3.00 a vehicle, the parking lot has limited stalls and fills up quickly. The Oahu bus service stops by the bay, or you can take a taxi or use an on-demand driving service like Lyft or Uber.
Lastly, in recent years Hawaii's beautiful coral reefs have been dying off at an alarming rate. Scientists have learned one of the main causes is from the chemicals found in sunscreen. Hawaii recently passed a law banning sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octanoates. If you are planining to use sunscreen, be sure to pick up reef safe sunscreen.
Hanauma Bay Amenities
At the beach you’ll find lifeguards, changing rooms, restrooms, showers, and food concessions. If you don’t have your own snorkel set, you can rent them for about $20.00.