Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the most unique and spectacular natural spaces in all of Hawaii. Located out on the easternmost peninsula of Oahu, this volcanic-formed bay offers visitors an unparalleled snorkeling and swimming experience.
The crystal clear waters of this bay reside in what was once a volcanic core and are still part of the Koolau Volcano. Soft, dazzling white sand stretches along the innermost part of the bay and offer ideal places for sunbathing and enjoying the general beauty of the area. Unfortunately, enjoying the waters and sand here isn’t so easy as just pulling up and jumping in.
The state of Hawaii has undertaken a significant protection and preservation program in and for Hanauma Bay. It is thanks to the state park’s fantastic efforts that this part of the island remains so pristine and full of marine life. But in order to do this, they have had to implement measures that may be a touch frustrating for visitors. First, tour busses, taxi companies, or shuttles are not allowed to go and drop off or pick up visitors. Instead, you will need to drive your own rental vehicle. At this time, Lyft and Uber-dropped guests are allowed. Park personnel limit visitors to 1000 guests per day, with 30 new guests allowed in every ten minutes. While there is some wiggle room for walk-ins, the strict scheduling of entering guests means you will have the best luck making a timed reservation online.
All first-time visitors to Hanauma Bay must watch a 9-minute safety and rules video upon arrival. This video informs viewers on the habitat-saving work state park rangers have done and outlines what is expected of snorkelers and swimmers to ensure the overall protection of the bay’s pristine environment. The video is shown in the Visitor Center atop the cliffs at Hanamua Bay. Once finished, you will be guided down a short but steep walk to the white sandy beaches. Visitors can also opt to hop on the tram, a recently added service that is included with entrance fees and has made the park much more accessible to all.
Once at the beach, you can partake in what is the biggest draw to Hanauma Bay: Snorkeling. The snorkeling here is simply unparalleled. You will see coral of all shapes and color and swimming about them is an abundance of marine life. Tropical fishes, sea turtles, and even dolphins are frequently sighted here. If you are hungry for a magical underwater experience, then Hanauma Bay is the place that is guaranteed to deliver.
The waters at Hanauma Bay are reliably calm, making for safe swimming and snorkeling almost every day of the year. There are also lifeguards that keep watch over the beach every hour the park is open. Other park amenities include picnic tables, a food concession stand, locker rentals to keep valuables safe, full gift shop, full restrooms and showers, and a rental shop where you can pick up a mask, snorkel, and fins with which to explore those underwater environments.
– Prices at Haunama Bay aren’t cheap. Entrance is $25 for all visitors over the age of 12 and there is a fee for using the parking lot. On top of that, renting snorkel gear is $20 per set for standard gear and $40 for premium (and getting that gear requires standing in an often very long line). To save some on costs and time, we recommend purchasing your own snorkeling equipment if you plan on snorkeling for more than just a day. You can also find cheaper rental outfits elsewhere on the island.
– After a long day of swimming, consider heading to Kona Brewing Company for good local beers and food. You’ll find this gastropub in the heart of the nearby village of Kai, along with a bunch of other restaurants, cafes, and shops.