I can’t really say enough about what Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on Oahu means to me. If you’ve ever dreamed of or discovered a place in the world, and maybe in your own backyard, that for the first time you felt completely at peace, then maybe you can understand what Hanauma means to me.
I had an idea of what Hawaii was and Hanauma Bay is all of that. The views, the blue water, the coral, the fish, and small but beautiful beaches.
History of Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay was formed, like all of Hawaii, by volcanic activity thousands of years ago. The bay doesn’t contain fresh water nearby so it is unlikely that ancient Hawaiians ever lived in the vicinity of the bay. However, they most certainly did some fishing there. An excavation in 1958 led to the discovery of a shelter cave that contained fish hooks, tools and remnants of camp and cooking fires.
Fun Fact: The Hawaiian word for bay is “hana” and the “uma” in the name means “curved”. Therefore, Hanauma literally means “curved bay”. You can see below why the crescent moon shaped of land and the water within it would have gotten that name thousands of years ago.
In modern times, Hanauma Bay and the reef within her waters were abused and little cared for. Honolulu allowed for telephone companies to build on it and there was even a demolition project that allowed for the dredging and dynamiting of the coral reef so that large chunks of it could be removed and the public would have more room to swim.
The more popular the bay got the worse things got for the natural beauty and the delicate eco-system that made the whole idea of Hanauma Bay flourish.
Soon, the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve would be controlled, monitored and cared for. These days, access and the amount of people allowed to visit on a daily and weekly basis is strictly controlled. There is also a great education program going on. Prior to entering the bay for the first time, visitors must watch a 9 minute video that covers the history of the bay and measures to preserve the eco-system are well explained and enforced.
Visiting Hanauma Bay
There is a $1 parking charge to use the bay’s on-site parking lot. While the lot is big, it fills up early as the bay is a popular tourist destination with many Waikiki Hotels offering tours.
Entry fee is $7.50 for most people visiting the bay. If you are active-military or a family member, a Hawaii resident, and younger visitors then entry to the bay is free.
After, paying the entry fee you will be required to watch the 9 minute education and history of Hanauma Bay video. This is required once per year and after the video you can sign into a sheet so that you won’t have to watch it again for the next year. (You simply go to a desk upon entering , present your ID and they check and stamp your hand.)
The hill down to the bay is steep. It’s even worse on the way up with gear and after a long day in the sun and water! There are tram rides that cost $1 one way or $2 for an all-day pass. This may be good to get if you are not going to pack cooler of food and snacks to bring on the beach with you. Food service is present at Hanauma Bay, but it’s at the top of the hill.
The beach itself has lifeguards, showers, bathrooms, changing rooms and even a visitor center so that you can find information about the bay and identify the kind of marine life that you are going to, or did, see.
If you have your own snorkel gear then feel free to bring it with you. If you need to rent snorkel gear then it is $12 per set (mask, snorkel, fins) or $5 for individual pieces. You will need to either leave a government issued ID or the credit card that you paid with for collateral when you rent snorkel gear.
Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay!
Wow! You can literally see the fish from standing on the shore. Once you get in and get used to your snorkeling gear (if you’re new to snorkeling), then you’ll be amazed at how tamed and plentiful the marine life at Hanauma Bay are. I’ve added some of my favorite videos (and one goofy on) from my few times at the bay. Sorry for the shaky camera work…I’m a novice, after all!
Contact Info and Directions:
Recorded Information Line
Hours: 6:00 am to 6:00 pm (The park is closed on Tuesdays. No entry.)
Take H1 east from Waikiki till it ends & becomes Kalanianaole Highway for approximately 10 miles. Entrance to the preserve is on the right at the top of the hill just past the city of Hawaii Kai.