There’s no doubt Hanauma Bay has become one of the most popular snorkeling spots on Oahu. A pleasantly overwhelming amount of fish nibble at your toes and brush up against you with their slippery bodies. A very friendly bunch, to say the least, as they welcome you to their sacred underwater world.

A glorious morning at Hanauma Bay.

But what many don’t notice is the history surrounding the bay, just above the water’s surface. The crater rim wraps its curved arms around and protects the bay from the wrath of surrounding ocean waves; hence the name Hanauma (pronounced ha-NOW-muh), which means “curved bay” in Hawaiian.

Hawaiian History at Hanauma

Some say the crater resembles a giant lizard named Keanamoo. According to an ancient Hawaiian legend, Keanamoo arranged an arm wrestling match for the two men wanting to marry his daughter, Keohinani. The victor would get his wish, but on match day, both men struggled to prove their greatness, as each was equally h3.

Keohinani loved both men and couldn’t stand to watch them suffer, so she climbed to the top of the crater and asked the akua (gods) to transform her into a hill. This way, the pain would end, and everyone would be able to gaze upon her innocence forever. Her unselfish request was instantly granted, as she morphed into the lower part of the Hanauma crater, where you’ll now see a modern-day radar station.

Can you see the moo, or gecko, that protects Hanauma Bay?

Her father had been so moved by his daughter’s act of kindness that he transformed himself into the crater rim above her. Today, the two inter-twined ridges not only look like his giant lizard tail but the locked arms of the men’s wrestling match, as well.

Regal and Rock ‘n Roll

The bay has become an important part in Hawaii’s history, noted as a Hawaiian fishing shelter and also one of Queen Kaahumanu’s favorite hang outs. She’d spend an entire month lounging alongside the calm waters, enjoying the entertainment provided by hula dancers and hand wrestlers. In 1961, Elvis Presley filmed his Hollywood breakthrough, Blue Hawaii, here.

Hanauma’s clear waters provide perfect visibility for snorkelers.

Hanauma continued to rack up points as a historic place when it became the state’s first Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD). Before that, many people fished and camped here, which unfortunately, depleted the fish stocks and damaged precious coral reefs. The bay has slowly started to reap the benefits of becoming a MLCD and remains to be home to one of the world’s most pristine marine ecosystems.

HANAUMA BAY NATURE PRESERVE • 7455 Kalanianaole Hwy., Honolulu, HI 96825 • Opens everyday but Tues, 6am-7pm (summer) & 6am-6pm (winter) • $5 entrance fee, $1 parking fee • Lot closes when filled (usually around 9am during summer) • 808-396-4229

Photo Credit (first and third): Katherine Finch

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for bringing my memories back, Bruce!

    I went at Hanauma years ago with my son and wife and the nature there and the marine life are breathtaking! Worth to mention the guys who helped us, Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Tours (www.hoptours) who took us for snorkel and scuba right from our hotel.

    What I liked the most at Hanauma is the clear waters and not so many tourists especially if you come early morning.

    Thanks again,
    Vic

  2. A fantastic place to be even when i took my 84 year old mother in law she actually donned fins and snorkling gear and went in with me she said the best and most beautiful thing she had ever done in her life other than marrying dad.

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