Whenever someone visits me in Oahu, I absolutely always take them snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. It is simply the most beautiful spot on the island. It's about a half-hour drive from Waikiki and there are plenty of shuttle services available to take you there. Before you are allowed down to the bay, you must first view a short film instructing visitors about the history and rules for Hanauma Bay. Don't feed the fish; Don't step on the reef; Snorkel with a buddy. When you pay your admission, you will receive a time-stamped ticket for the movie. During peak tourist times, the wait can be as long as an hour. But do not let that stop you !
After the movie, you can choose to either walk down to the bay or you can hop a shuttle bus. It's a very short walk, but the bus is convenient if you are hauling lots of gear or kids. The ride down is 50 cents; the ride back up is $1.00. Down at the bay, there is a snorkel rental center; lockers; an information booth providing fish identification guides and safety information; outdoor showers; restrooms and changing rooms. If you want to purchase food or drinks at Hanauma Bay, you must do so at the snack bar up by the main entrance. You are welcome to bring your own food and drink down to the beach.
The snorkeling here is wonderful. The water at Hanauma Bay is very shallow and you do not have to go very far out to see lots of colorful fish. My son once saw an octopus and my husband saw a sea turtle. Earlier in the day seems to be the best time to see fish. Try to avoid the time when high tide is approaching because lots of sand gets kicked up and it can be kind of wavy. On the serious side, there are usually 3 or 4 drownings each year here at Hanauma Bay. Know your limits; rent an inflatable vest to be safe; get some instruction on the proper use of the snorkel equipment.
Buy your tickets here
Hanauma Bay visitor center
Short walk down to the bay
Beautiful view on the walk down
Enjoying the beach
Great snorkeling here
Rent snorkel equipment
Information booth on the beach
Some prefer a ride back up the hill
Parking lot fills up early
Don't be late !
Official Website: Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
* If you plan to return to Hanauma Bay within the next year, be sure to sign the "repeat visitor list" so you can skip the movie the next time you come. The sign-up list is in the front of the movie theater
* The parking lot fills up early. Once it is full, they will post a "Closed" sign down at the entrance. At this point, your only option is to drive around and keep checking back every fifteen minutes. Be patient, it will reopen again. But don't wait too long to check back or it could reclose again! If you want to be safe, get here by 8AM during peak tourist times or take a bus or a shuttle. You can usually find parking if you come later in the day too.
* Pay attention to the tides when scheduling your visit. The best snorkeling is when low tide is approaching. The ocean is calm and clear. If you happen to be there at low tide, the snorkeling can be a little tricky because there is less than a foot of water over parts of the reef then. If you get there as high tide is approaching, it can be quite wavy and the sand kicks up reducing the visibility. Of course, if you spend the whole day there, you'll experience all of the tide changes (just make sure you use a lot of sunscreen!)
* Be sure to get your hand stamped when you leave if you are planning to return the same day.
* Do not come on Tuesdays ! It is closed then to give the bay a chance to replenish. Check the official website above for current hours and admission costs.
* Watch out for the monthly Box Jellyfish influx. This usually occurs between 7 and 10 days following a full moon. On rare occasions, Hanauma Bay has closed because of a large amount of jellyfish in the water. This is usually not the case, but quite a few stingings have occurred during the peak influxes. Here's a handy Box Jellyfish calendar.
Enter Hanauma Bay area using Google Street View
Position your mouse over the image below and click on the circles to navigate around the area. You won't be able to go down into the bay area, but you can get a feel for the layout of the parking area and entrance line. Click on the upper right corner to view it in full-screen mode.
Go snorkeling in Hanauma Bay with Google's underwater panoramic images
Use your mouse to navigate underwater. Can you find the people snorkeling above you?
Hanauma Bay is about 10 miles east of Waikiki. If you take H1 East to the very end, you will end up on Kalanianaole Hwy. Continue along Kalanianaole ("ka lon ee on uh o-lay) through the East Honolulu suburbs. The Hanauma Bay entrance is on the right side of the road a little way past the Lunalilo Home Road intersection in Hawaii Kai.
Video showing scenes from Hanauma Bay:
Hanauma Bay Education Video - Required viewing for visitors prior to entry: "Don't Feed Me"