Experiencing the Magical Underwater World of Oahu’s Hanauma Bay 

by Eileen Strauss on April 04, 2022

One of Oahu’s top attractions, the magical marine ecosystem of Hanauma Bay State Park has long been considered the crown jewel of this island paradise. Located on the southeast coast of Oahu, about 10 miles east of Waikiki,  Hanauma Bay is one of Hawaii's most popular natural attractions and snorkeling destinations. 

 

Known by locals as “The Curved Bay,” the volcanic cone formation surrounds gorgeous, clear blue waters filled with an abundance of green sea turtles and parrotfish. A favorite destination for spotting adorable immature turtles, their nesting grounds at French Frigate Shoals, is an island highlight. 

 

Natives have been enjoying life on the bay for thousands of years, and 3 million visitors each year come to swim, fish, and learn about the wide variety of marine species that make this vibrant bay their home. Recent efforts to revitalize the Bay’s ecosystem have made Hanauma Bay an up-and-coming premier vacation destination for lovers of everything below the surface. 

 

Calm and shallow Hanauma Bay is home to some of Oahu's best coral and sea life making Hanauma Bay State Park an excellent snorkeling destination for families with small children.  

 

Waterproof CaliCase Phone Case

 

 

15 Tips to Know When Visiting Hanauma Bay 

 

  1. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm.

  2. During the summer months, the Bay is open until 7:00 pm.

  3.  Lifeguards are always on duty.

  4. The bay is closed every Tuesday for restoration purposes.

  5. Lockers rentals are available.

  6. Beach wheelchairs are available free of charge.

  7. Visitors are required to watch a short educational video about preservation and safety before entering the Bay.

  8. Shuttle services to Hanauma Bay include masks, snorkel, and fins.

  9. Feeding fish in the Bay is prohibited.

  10. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is the only dedicated snorkeling beach on Oahu, run and regulated by the Honolulu Dept. of Parks and Recreation. 

  11. Entry fee for non-residents: $25

  12. Parking charge: $1 for residents, $3 for non-residents. 

  13. Tram rides are available from the Visitor Center to the beach. Cost $1 going down and $1.25 going up.

  14. Only 1000 reservations are accepted per day. 

  15. Bring a reliable underwater camera or waterproof phone case

What to expect  

 

After watching a mandatory 9-minute safety video about reef safety, proper snorkeling techniques, and protecting the corals, visitors take a 10-minute walk from the Visitor Center on the upper cliffs down to the beach. It’s a short, but steep walk, so tram rides are available.  

 

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

 

Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular places to snorkel in the Hawaii islands.

The water is typically very calm, and you can see quite a few fish just by wading in. There is a dense concentration of coral just offshore, a perfect fit for small children.

Marine life: Triggerfish, yellow tang, angelfish, trumpet fish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, and the lauwiliwilinukunukuʻoiʻoi fish (the longest named fish in the islands. 

The interior, shallow reef has some very good snorkeling spots, but can be very crowded during peak times (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.).  Sandman’s Patch and Back Door, Key Hole and Triangle Lagoons are all great  places for first-time, beginner, and the littlest snorkelers.

Outside the main reef, there are opportunities for advanced snorkelers to go out into deeper water, where bigger fish and lots of Hawaiian green sea turtles are abundant.

 

 

Snorkeling Safety 

 

Hanauma Bay is a very safe place to snorkel, with lifeguards on duty year-round, but during rough water conditions, some areas should be avoided.

*** Pay extra attention to the currents when snorkeling in these locations:

  • Witches’ Brew, a small peninsula and cove on the right side of the bay

  • Toilet Bowl, a small pool around the bay’s left point 

  • The Slot during low tide. 

  • The Moloka‘i Express, a current near the left side of the bay’s mouth 

Protecting the reef 

 

Human impact on the coral reef can be minimized by following a few simple steps:

  • Use reef-safe sunscreen.  

  • Don’t step on coral.  

  • Don’t feed the fish.

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