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Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on Oahu

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

Every day, thousands of tourists and locals from Hawaii show up at this beautiful natural bay carved into a crater and surrounded by green mountain walls.

Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay

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

Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve 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.

You have a nice view of Koko Head Crater, another excellent place to visit, and the nearby Makapu'u Lighthouse trail from the parking lot.

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 see the incredible coral reef formations and even spot some schools of fish in the crystal clear water below.

Also, if you visit at 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 intense 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 you'll want the film to be over so you can get to the cool water below, it's a good way to make more people are aware of what it takes to preserve and care for the reef and bay.

Quiet beach, benefit of going early
Quiet beach, the 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 stunning, with coarse brown 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

Update: see the official park website to confirm current hours and entry requirements for Hanauma Bay.

Open hours: 6:45 am – 1:30 pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
Entrance fee: $7.50

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Todd Palgon

Sunday 11th of May 2014

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.

Jen Seligmann

Tuesday 22nd of April 2014

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.

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