Formed within a volcanic core, Hanauma Bay boasts a pristine marine ecosystem that was declared a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967. Long one of Oahu’s top attractions, the park is characterized by clear blue waters and its lovely curved formation.
The History of Hanauma Bay
In its earlier days, Hanauma Bay was used by Hawaiian royalty for fishing and recreation. After becoming available to visitors in the 20th century, the bay was in danger of falling into decline due to the millions of visitors exploring the area for snorkeling and other recreational opportunities. In response, the City and County of Honolulu laid out a plan in 1990 to restore the area. Today, visitors must pass through a marine education center before entering the bay, with the goal being to inform visitors about the park and its conservation efforts.
The Hanauma Bay Conservation Center
A marine education center, which all visitors are required to visit, was added to Hanauma Bay in 2002. As a part of this requirement, visitors must watch a 9-minute video about the park’s marine life, preservation efforts and safety rules. Laws are also in place regarding the treatment of marine animals and the coral, with laws specifically forbidding touching or walking on the coral.
Recreational Opportunities at Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay offers opportunities for visitors to enjoy a wide variety of recreational opportunities. The most popular of these is snorkeling, with snorkeling tours allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the parks incredible beauty. In addition to the many colorful species of fish, visitors may also spot sea turtles, reef triggerfish, and moray eels. The living coral is also a sight to behold.
The scenic beauty of the bay is reason enough to visit the park, though one of the park’s popular attractions has been closed since the early 2000s due to safety concerns. The feature, a natural spa called the “Toilet Bowl” is characterized by its rising and falling waters within the waves.
Visiting Hanauma Bay
When visiting Hanauma Bay, you will want to protect yourself with sunscreen. When picking a sunscreen, however, be sure to select a product that is safe for reefs. This means selecting a sunscreen that does not include octinoxate, oxybenzone or octocrylene. You can also save yourself time and frustration by taking the shuttle from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay. While there are several parking spots at the park, the park sees about 3,000 visitors per day and spots fill up quickly.
Hanauma Bay is open every day but Tuesday, with the park closed on this day in order to allow the fish a day of feeding without being interrupted by swimmers. Summer hours are 6:00 am until 7:00 pm, while winter hours are 6:00 am until 6:00 pm. Admission is $7.50 per person, though children under 12, active duty military personnel and local residents are admitted for free.