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You will be aware and probably make a list of all the “must-see/must-do” places among these islands. While Hanauma Bay makes most of the lists, it’s easy to put off until you’ve checked out most of the others.
Don’t shun it. Highlight it.
On the far-eastern end of the island of Oahu, Hanauma Bay is a Nature Preserve dedicated to safeguarding fragile marine life — the first Marine Life Conservation District in the State of Hawaii. Although your visit there will seem at first like just a day at a beach park, you will find it to be much, much more.
You will be welcomed with a nine-minute video (Actually, it’s mandatory) when you get there. It covers the formation of the bay, some creatures you will encounter, what you can do to protect the reef, and how to protect yourself — all so you can make the most of your visit. The preserve opens at 6:00 a.m. If you’re early, you can avoid delays at the video venue. If you do have to wait, browse through the displays in the education center to get familiar with the wonder of it all. (Your show time will appear on your ticket.) By the way, there is a parking lot, but it fills up early and you’ll need to find a parking spot at the Koko Marina Center a half-mile down the road. (Not a bad stop for its shops and restaurants.) The Hanauma Bay lot is closed altogether on Tuesdays for maintenance.
The admission fee is $5 for non-residents 13 years of age or older, and free for everyone else. The cashiers take only cash, traveler’s checks, MasterCard and Visa. The fee does not include snorkeling equipment. You can rent that on the beach for $6: a basic set of mask, fins and snorkel. (Do it!) The snorkel concession takes only cash and requires a deposit in the form of a credit card, cash, or rental car key.
There isn’t much shade at Hanauma Bay. Bring a hat and sunscreen, and drink a lot of water.
There is nothing beyond common-sense water-safety awareness needed to prepare yourself for swimming with the sea creatures. Once you walk into the bay, you’ll see amazing stuff: Turtles, Triggerfish, Tang, Surgeonfish, Moray Eels, Butterfly Fish, Parrotfish, Goatfish, Jellyfish, Urchins … and there’s no need to be afraid of them. They’re used to company, and aren’t very afraid of you, either. There’s a wide variety of tours to Hanauma Bay if you aren’t driving. Check with an agent at hawaii-aloha.com, or call 1-800-843-8771 and we’ll fix you up with a plan that fits your overall planning.