A Day at Honolulu’s Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

by Mark Wiens on April 21, 2014 · 2 comments

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay, located on the very southeast side of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, is one of the most popular attractions to visit on the island.

Everyday thousands of both tourist and locals from Hawaii show up at this beautiful natural bay, which is carved into a crater, and surrounded by green mountain walls.

Hanauma Bay is more than just a beach, it’s a nature preserve and a sea life sanctuary, known for its reef and abundance of marine life.

You can come to do some swimming and relaxing on the beach, but the main reason most people visit is to enjoy the world-class snorkeling.

Koko Head in the background

Koko Head in the background

Hanauama Bay is a nature preserve, which is operated by the state – so it’s a protected area – and that’s great because it also means that the natural environment is regulated and maintained.

From the parking lot, you have a nice view of Koko Head Crater, another awesome place to visit, and also the nearby Makapu’u Lighthouse trail.

Marine reserve

Marine reserve

The parking lot is at the top of the bay, so after parking, make sure you first get an overview look of the gorgeous bay below.

From above, you can really see the incredible coral reef formations, and even spot some schools of fish in the crystal clear water below.

Also, if you visit in the right time of the year, and have a bit of luck, you might be able to spot a humpback whale in the distance (just outside of the bay, there are very deep blue waters, and it’s a prime spot for whale watching).

Beach and snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

Beach and snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

After paying the entrance fee, you are first required to go into the Marine Education Center and watch a short film about marine conservation, the do’s and don’ts for taking care of the reef, and some brief information about Hanauma Bay itself.

Though it might be a bit boring, and though you’ll just want the film to be over so you can get to the cool water below, I think the film is a good way to make more people aware of how to preserve and take care of the reef and bay.

Quiet beach, benefit of going early

Quiet beach, benefit of going early

From the top parking lot, it takes about five minutes to walk to the beach below. Alternatively, there’s a small trolley, and for a small fee you can ride down or up if you need to.

The beach itself is incredibly beautiful, brown coarse sand, green mountain walls, and calm lapping water that’s clear and refreshing.

It’s best if you have your own mask and snorkel, but if you don’t, you can rent a set along the beach.

During your visit to Honolulu, taking a day trip to Hanauma Bay is a stunning beach to see, and an opportunity to explore the many colorful and unique fish and marine life Hawaii has to offer

Entrance to Hanauma Bay

Entrance to Hanauma Bay

Open hours: 6 am – 6 pm (closed on Tuesday)
Entrance fee: $7.50
Here’s a little side tip: Since Hanauma Bay is such a popular tourist destination, they charge a premium for entrance. $7.50 in my opinion is quite a steep price to pay to go to a beach, especially if you have a family. But luckily there is a way around the fee, you just have to wake up and enter the park anytime from 6 am – and before 7 am, and you can park your car for free and enter for free. On my latest visit to Hawaii, I arrived at 6:45 am and it worked perfectly. Plus I avoided the major busloads of crowds who all seem to show up around 10 am each day.

About the Author:

is the author of 164 posts on Go Backpacking.

Mark was raised in central Africa before migrating back to the US for University. After graduating, he decided to continue traveling the world. On Migrationology, he shares the cultural side of travel from a slow paced local perspective that often revolves around his love for eating all forms of food. Join him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @migrationology, and add him on Google Plus.

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Categories: Features, Hawaii
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Jen Seligmann April 22, 2014 at 5:46 am

I was just watching a video my brother in law made of their trip to Hawaii just like an hour ago and my favourite part was the footage from Hanauma Bay. It looks so beautiful and I love all the sealife you can see there.


Todd Palgon May 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I would just love to go to Hawaii to see the sites. I just finished watching a DVD on the favorite tourist spots to Hawaii and Hanauma Bay was prominently mentioned. Thanks for posting the great pictures that you took. Hawaii has a lot to offer.


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