Hanauma Bay State Park

Local Expert's Rating:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Hanauma Bay State Park sits within a volcanic cone, offering a lush landscape and pristine beaches for snorkeling fun in the sun. It was voted America's best beach in 2016, and the protected conservation area is a prime example of Hawaii's natural beauty and incredible marine ecosystem.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Dreaming of a picturesque beach and amazing snorkeling? Hanauma Bay State Park is a must-see on the beautiful island of Oahu. As one of Hawaii’s most beloved tourist destinations, Hanauma Bay offers incredible views and awesome recreation for the whole family to enjoy.

Hanauma Bay is situated on the island’s southeast coast in East Honolulu’s Hawaii Kai neighborhood. About 10 miles outside Waikiki’s main tourist strip. The area has battled over-tourism in the past. The city and county launched a plan to restore and protect the bay in the 1990s.

Today, visitors pay an entry fee to access the park for the day. Tour buses no longer stop at Hanauma to prevent overuse and damage to the stunning natural resource. The government has recently introduced further caps on the number of guests allowed into the state park per day. So remember to reserve your spot online to make sure you can go.

The drive to Hanauma Bay is well worth it. The marine conservation area was named the best U.S. beach in 2016 by Dr. Beaches. The sandy shores and gentle waves are perfect for family fun and snorkelers of all levels. Plus, volunteers are stationed along the pristine coastline to teach visitors about conservation efforts protecting the numerous fish and sea creatures that live underwater.

Hanauma Bay is labeled one of Hawaii’s best snorkeling spots. If you’re new to snorkeling but want to give it a try, this is a great spot as you can walk right into the reef from the shore. You should notice an array of colorful fish swimming past in shallow water as you become more comfortable with your snorkel gear.

If you snorkel regularly, you can dive right in for a glimpse of endangered green sea turtles splashing around the shallows. Triggerfish, tang, surgeon fish, and moray eels are also known to frequent the bay. It’s no wonder why so many visitors want to snorkel all day long!

When you need a break from the water, make sure to stop by the marine education center. Learn more about the area and why preservation efforts are so important. You will discover the bay’s rich history, as Hawaiian Royalty used it for recreation and fishing before it became a tourist hotspot.

What to bring to Hanauma Bay State Park:

  • Park entrance fee
  • Beach towel
  • Swimsuit
  • Reef-safe sunscreen
  • Small cooler with snacks and non-alcoholic drinks
  • Snorkel gear (rentals available)
  • Reef shoes
  • Rash guard
  • Sunglasses

Keep in mind there is a snack bar and gift shop on the park’s upper level. As well as a free tram service running between the upper and lower levels. Volunteers are on hand to answer questions and arrange beach wheelchairs for free if needed, too.

Additionally, Hanauma Bay is closed to the public every Monday and Tuesday. This gives marine creatures two days without any human disturbance. Plan ahead and reserve your spot online so you can cross this snorkel wonderland off your bucket list and see Hawaiian marine life up close.

Insider Tips:
-Go early to get a good parking spot, as the guarded lot only has 300 stalls and fills up fast.
-Save money by bringing your own snorkel gear instead of rentals.