Hands down, Hanauma Bay is one of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu. Hanauma Bay was formed within a volcanic cone and is home to a pristine marine ecosystem. When you are snorkeling, you will see all kinds of fish, and you might even see sea turtles.
Aside from the tropical fish, the crystal clear and calm water also helps make this spot ideal for snorkeling. The water is also pretty shallow, with deeper spots a bit farther out for more experienced snorkelers.
Hanauma Bay was designated a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967. Despite its popularity, with up to 3,000 visitors per day, Hanauma Bay has managed to maintain its status as an ideal snorkeling destination thanks to a range of conservation efforts and stringent regulations that have been implemented. During the pandemic in 2019, when regular human visits ceased, the reefs and fish populations rebounded, motivating the bay stewards to redouble their efforts in safeguarding this remarkable natural wonder. As a result, visitors must make an online reservation at least two days in advance. Local residents can bypass this requirement and enter whenever the park is open. Fees have been raised from $12 to $ 25 per person; children 12 and under are free. Also, entry to the park is only allowed from 6:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
What to expect
If you are arriving by car, parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis for $3 per vehicle. You will watch a short video after parking and purchasing your admission ticket (free for locals with state ID, active-duty military, and children 12 years old and under). Every visitor must watch the educational video in the theater during each visit to HBAY. Prior viewings of the video will not exempt visitors from this requirement.
The online reservation system will enable the public to choose an educational viewing showtime for their planned visit to the Hanauma Bay nature preserve two days in advance. For example, starting at 7 a.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time (HST) on Monday, the public can begin booking a time slot for Wednesday. Reservations will remain open until all slots are taken or until midnight on the day before the visit, which means that reservations for Wednesday will close after 11:59 p.m. (HST) on the preceding Tuesday.”
The video talks about snorkeling safety tips. The video also teaches you about the park’s marine life, preservation, conservation, and safety rules. All visitors are legally required to refrain from mistreating the marine animals and touching or walking on the coral reefs.
After watching the video, you can purchase a tram ride for a small fee down to the beach or walk. The walk down is quite steep, so many people find it beneficial to pay for a ride. However, you’re more likely to want to take the tram back up the hill, as it can be a little strenuous, especially after an active day on the beach.
Once you get down to the beach, there are little stands where you can rent snorkel gear. There are also informational booths showing pictures of all the different kinds of fish you might see in Hanauma Bay.
Set your stuff down on the beach, put on some sunscreen, and you’ll be ready to head into the water! Ensure you stay within the boundaries and refrain from touching the fish and stepping on the coral.
Hanauma Bay is also a gorgeous beach. You could easily spend an entire day here. After you get out of the water, you can read, eat lunch, walk up and down the beach, and just enjoy Hanauma Bay’s natural beauty.
What to look for
The last time I went to Hanauma Bay, I could not believe how many fish I saw! It seemed like everywhere I looked, there were more and more! Check out our guide to marine life at Hanauma Bay! Here are just a few different fish that I saw last time I went:
What to bring to Hanauma Bay
Bring beach towels, sunblock, water, a swimsuit and coral-safe sunscreen. And bring an underwater camera to take pictures of the marine life!
Life jackets, vests, and floaties are unavailable at Hanauma Bay, so remember to bring your own.
There is pretty much no shade on this beach, so bring an umbrella if you like the shade.
You are also allowed to bring a small personal cooler with snacks or non-alcoholic beverages. Large coolers are not allowed. You might also want to bring extra money for the snack bar and gift shop.
Additional Tips for Visiting Hanauma Bay
Only a certain amount of cars are allowed in the parking lot. If the lot is full, you will be asked to leave. There is no waiting area. But if you book your tour with us, you won’t have to worry about parking! We will get you in without a problem.
Reservations and payments can be made for 10 individuals, comprising no more than five children and/or five adults at a time. Online payments must be completed for non-residents of Hawai‘i aged 13 and older to secure the reservation. To cater to individuals in the public who do not have access to a computer and the internet, a limited amount of walk-in or drive-in access without an online reservation will still be permitted. On-site payment for entry is an option as well but must be paid with a credit card; cash is not accepted for admission.
There is food for sale, and it’s good food! But it’s at the top of the hill, near where you buy your entrance ticket. Although you are welcome to eat on the beach, there is no food for sale down at the beach. You can use the tram service as often as you would like throughout the day, making it easier to get to the snack bar and bring down your food. Or, you can bring your own snacks.
Lockers are available on the beach for you to secure your valuables. Lockers are $8.00 for a small and $10 for a large. You can rent snorkel gear at the beach as well for $20. Prescription mask/snorkel sets, for the nearsighted, are available for $15 at the bay (-200 to -800). Beach wheelchairs are available for free, ask the volunteers at Hanauma Bay.
Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Safety Tips
Hanauma Bay provides lifeguards and an extensive list of safety tips for visitors to review before entering the water. These include:
If in Doubt, Just Stay Out!
• Swim in areas near a lifeguard stand when possible
• Never swim alone
• Don’t dive into unknown water or into shallow breaking waves
• Ask a lifeguard about beach and surf conditions before swimming
• If you are unable to swim out of a strong current, signal for help
• Rely on your swimming ability rather than a flotation device
• Look for, read, and obey all beach safety signs and symbols
Please, take very special care of your children. Parents or adult guardians should always supervise them at the beach and in the ocean. Lifeguards are not substitute babysitters – their responsibility includes the entire beach.