One of the most exciting places to explore in Oahu is the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. This beautiful cove is located on the southeastern tip of East Honolulu. The circular-shaped shore of the bay leads to an underwater world created by a volcanic. Today, this crater, likely flooded by wave erosion, is home to an important nature preserve and the island’s most popular Oahu snorkeling destination.
Getting to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
If you’re staying in Waikiki you can reach the nature preserve in about 30 minutes. There is a $1 charge to park, then an admittance fee of $7.50 per person. Children under the age of 13, active military, and Hawaii residents can enter the nature preserve free of charge.
We recommend arriving to the bay early. The parking lot often fills early and you will be turned away if it is full. By getting an early start you will avoid long lines at the ticket booth and snorkel concession. Another option is to book a snorkel tour through the Hanauma Bay State Park service. They operate an all-inclusive package with shuttle service from Waikiki to the bay, plus snorkel, mask, and fins, with a specific allotted time you can schedule into your day.
Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
To snorkel at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, you can either bring your own snorkel equipment or rent fins, a mask, and snorkel onsite. Plus, lockers are available for your convenience. Prices are as follows:
- Snorkel Set – $20.00
- Small Locker – $8.00
- Large Locker – $10.00
Hanauma Bay snorkeling is so popular because of the wide variety of species inhabiting the bay. Known for its abundance of green sea turtles, or honos in Hawaiian, the bay is a nursery ground for young turtles. In addition to the turtles, snorkelers can take a peek at the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa (the state fish of Hawaii) as well as parrotfish, trumpet fish, and angel fish. In all, there are more than 450 colorful tropical fish in the area, as well as octopus, crabs, and eels.
The floor of Hanauma Bay is covered with hard corals, creating an environment ideal for sea life. Hanauma Bay’s shallow waters support lobe, rice blue, and cauliflower corals and the curved, protected waters make for a calm snorkeling environment. The living coral forest adds to unique underwater landscape visitors to the bay get to explore.
At the beginning of your snorkeling experience, the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve team shows a film explaining the types of fish, coral, and aquatic life in the bay. This film will note that you should not step on the coral. Remember this when snorkeling! Not only is it dangerous to you, it’s harmful to the underwater ecosystem.
Know Before You Go
For a memorable snorkeling experience at Hanauma Bay, there are a few things you should know.
Parking Lot Tram
The walk down to the bay is steep, meaning the climb up can be difficult for some visitors. The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve offers a tram ride up and down for a small fee of $1.00 per person.
Hours of Operation
Hanauma Bay is closed every Tuesday for clean up, as well as Christmas Day and New Years Day. Otherwise, the park is open from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm. Remember to arrive as early as possible!
If you are traveling to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve with young children, do note that life jackets, vests, and floaties are not available for rent. You will have to bring your own. Shuttle services have vests available for rent. You can also purchase this equipment at several shops in Waikiki.
What to Bring
For your snorkeling excursion, bring a swimsuit, towel, and reef-safe sunscreen. While there are changing rooms available, it is best to come to the bay already wearing your swimsuit with an appropriate cover-up.
Guests may also bring a small cooler with food and beverages. However, large coolers and alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited.
Also, I recommend bringing an underwater camera with you to capture all you see. Many snorkel rental companies also rent underwater cameras, in case you don’t own one.
Go Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Snorkeling in Hawaii is an incredible experience. Plan your trip to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve for an unforgettable excursion.
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Hawaii to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.