Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

Oahu Snorkeling

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

Hanauma Bay is the most famous of all Hawaii’s snorkeling beaches because of it’s high fish population, calm shallow water, and white sand.  This beach definitely has the tamest fish in Hawaii. 

Located on the east side of Oahu, this old volcanic crater is protected from all but the biggest of ocean swells making it a wonderful place to snorkel for beach goers of all ages.  If you haven't been Hanauma Bay recently, much has changed for the better.

Actually, Hanauma Bay is not a “beach park” but a Nature Preserve.  The City and County of Honolulu has gone through great lengths to reverse past years of abuse and neglect.  At it’s peak, years ago, Hanauma Bay had up to 10,000 visitors a day.  Today only about 3,000 visitors are allowed in daily to help minimize the impact on the ecosystem.  Before entering the preserve, everyone must watch a short video in the Marine Education Center.  You are encouraged to treat Hanauma as “a living museum”.  

There’s a $5 per person entrance fee.  The fee is waived those under 13 years of age or for residents of Hawaii with valid identification.

3,000 people a day is still a healthy amount, so if you were hoping to be the only one on the beach, you'll be quite disappointed.  Everyone should go to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve at least once though, it's quite a place to snorkel.

By the way, if you would like to snorkel pristine reefs that are typically only seen by locals or just want to spend your vacation day being pampered instead of planning, I would advise taking a snorkel tour.  Having ridden every oahu snorkel tour, I would recommend the Dolphin Snorkel Sail as my choice hands down choice.  Their extensive knowledge and treat-you-like-family customer service make them my go to guys for snorkel tours on the island of Oahu.

The shoreline is almost all white sand with coral beginning to form a little ways out.  The shoreline is extremely calm and you’ll be able to wade right into the water with no difficulty.  

Swim a short ways out from the sand to get to the clear water.  There are lots of crevices and caves to peek into once you get out over the coral reef.  The fish will be everywhere seeming almost oblivious to your presence.  The depth of water over the shallow coral ranges anywhere from about waist deep to 15 feet, getting even deeper the farther out you go.

Here’s some of the types of fish I’ve seen at Hanauma Bay: Butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, surgeon fish, moorish idol, tang, wrasse, cardinal fish, squirrel fish, big eyes, perch, chub, trigger fish, the former Hawaii State Fish Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, goat fish, snapper, porcupine fish, hawk fish, jacks, mullet, trumpet fish, cornet fish, needle fish, eels, crustaceans, and invertebrates.

The parking lot is located on the ridge above the actual bay.  Parking is limited so go early in the morning to make sure you’re able to get in.  Once it fills up you’ll be turned away.  Parking costs $1 for the whole day.  

Oh yeah, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is closed on Tuesdays to help minimize the impact on the ecosystem so plan accordingly.

There are grass picnic areas up near the parking lot and a concession stand to buy food and drinks.  You’ll also be able to rent snorkel gear down on the sand if you forgot yours.  The showers, restrooms, and lockers are located down on the beach. There are lifeguards on duty.

It’s a steep walk down from the parking area to the bay but there’s a tram that will take you up and down every few minutes.  Personally, I like the walk so I can look over the ledge at the ocean.  It’s a famous view.

Hanauma Bay Map
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Driving time to Hanauma Bay from Honolulu Airport is approximately 40 minutes.

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"After riding every snorkel tour on Oahu, I recommend The Dolphin and Whale Snorkel Sail as the best way to snorkel Hawaii's reefs."

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Snorkel Wisely
I know… I know… but it has to be said. The Hawaii snorkeling information contained within these pages is meant only as a general guide as to what to expect when visiting the Hawaiian Islands. As beautiful and mild as Hawaii usually is, weather is always unpredictable. Know your swimming ability. Be prudent and take into consideration the weather and environmental conditions when planning your beach activities. Obey warning signs, they are there to protect you. “Those waves don’t look that bad” are famous last words. I want you to enjoy all that our beautiful islands have to offer. Just use common sense, ok.

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