Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling - The Best of Hawaii

Why is Hanauma Bay a popular snorkeling destination?

Hanauma Bay is a snorkeling destination that merits it's own comprehensive review. Located on the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on the southeastern tip of O'ahu, amazing snorkeling is only a 20-30 minute drive from Honolulu. If you're in Honolulu, this could probably be the most convenient way of exploring nature in Hawaii.

There are many other advantages to this location once you are there. First, the bay is circular-shaped because it used to be a volcanic crater. After years of wave erosion, the crater has flooded to form an amazing shallow water eco-system that is very well protected from swells.

Second, there is a relatively substantial white sandy beach, so if you feel like taking a break from snorkeling you can always lay out on the beach and relax. It is also great for both beginners and experts, so no need to worry about previous snorkeling experience, or lack thereof.

Third, the primary reason this area is so popular is because of the marine life, water conditions, and scenery, which are second to none. However, there are way more amenities than many other snorkeling destinations, which can help reduce the stress of going somewhere completely remote, especially if you're with your family or a large group. This includes an on-duty lifeguard, restrooms, showers, phones, snorkeling gear rentals, and lockers.

Last, but not least, is the Marine Education Center. I find amenities like this to be underrated. It's a great way to become familiar with the geography of Hanauma Bay, the marine life in Hanauma Bay, as well as more information about the preservation of Hanauma Bay.

Is there anything I should be aware of before going to Hanauma Bay for snorkeling?

As long as you know what to expect, Hanauma Bay is simply all-around great. However, there are some things to be aware of before you go:

Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays, so don't go on a Tuesday.

Hanauma Bay is a protected eco-system, therefore you are expected to treat the area as a living being, and are not allowed to remove anything from the area. You can imagine with a popular spot that it could be easy for tourists to wear down the area, and this is what they are trying to avoid. The rules aren't in place because they don't trust tourists, they are there so that this eco-system can flourish for as long as possible.

Additionally, in attempt to maintain this wonderful eco-system, but still allow people to experience it, they have imposed a limit on number of people that can enter Hanauma Bay in one day. This number used to be 10000, but it was just too difficult to maintain, so now they let in a maximum of 3000 per day. Upon entry, you may be asked to watch a short safety video, just to give you a rundown of the area and any necessary safety precautions.

Although this is a major reduction in potential number of visitors, it is still a little more packed and "touristy" than some other more remote locations. This doesn't mean it will be shoulder to shoulder and you can't find a spot to snorkel. There will still be tons of room, just don't expect to be the only ones there.

Furthermore, as there are costs associated with maintaining such a wonderful area and allowing lots of people in to see it, there are admission fees to Hanauma Bay. Admission costs $7.50 per person, and parking costs $1.00 per car. If you plan on parking there, we suggest going in the morning, as the lot can fill up around mid-day. Children under the age of 13 get in for free, as do Hawaii residents who provide proof of identification.

Can I rent snorkel gear?

Definitely! Check out the resources below for more information on Hanauma Bay snorkel gear rentals. 


$22 includes hotel pickup and return (Waikiki only), mask, snorkel, fins, instruction, safety tips, and environmental guidelines.

Does NOT include $7.50 entrance fee to the park.

Reservations are required to be made a minimum of 24 hours in advance.

Phone: 1-808-306-3393

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.hanaumabaysnorkel.com


$22 includes hotel pickup and return (Waikiki only), mask, snorkel, fins, instruction, safety tips, and environmental guidelines.

Does NOT include $7.50 entrance fee to the park.

Reservations are required to be made a minimum of 24 hours in advance.

Phone: 1-808-306-3393

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.hanaumabaysnorkel.com

Once I'm in the water, what can I expect to see while snorkeling?

One word: Lots. With the crystal clear shallow waters of Hanauma Bay, it's hard to miss anything, especially when some of the marine life is so bright and colorful. For example, it's common to see school of butterfly fish swimming around beneath you.

A fan favorite are the green sea turtles. You may have to dive down a little further to get some good close-ups, but you'll likely want to do this anyway, as you can explore some of the awesome coral as well.

Some other fish include the state fish of Hawaii, which is called the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa (no idea how to pronounce it), yellow tangs, trumpet fish, angel fish, cardinal fish, surgeon fish, crustaceans, eels, and much more. Really, there are too many to list, over 450 different types of fish.

One tip that many find useful is to purchase an underwater camera (if in the budget). The marine life is extremely tame here, so there's a really good chance you will be able to swim among the fish and snap some pictures without them being frightened and swimming away.

Extra Tips When Visiting Hanauma Bay

It is state law that you cannot touch the turtles. Additionally, you should not chase or scare them, and a general guideline is to stay at least 10 feet away. They are tame, so sometimes instead of approaching them they will approach you. Again, it is best to provide some room, especially so they can surface for air. If a turtle becomes pissed off at you, it will either make a yawning motion or will swipe a fin.

Coral is an invertebrate, and as such, classified as a living animal. Therefore, it is very important that you do your best not to walk or damage the coral. In Hanauma Bay, there is one type of coral variety called "hermatype", and this type builds reefs along the ocean floor that look like rocks and stones. You are welcome to glide over them, but it is imperative that you do not walk on the coral.

You do not need to learn how to snorkel prior to going to Hanauma Bay. You can receive some instruction before entering the water about how to use the equipment, safety, and what types of things to look for.

Snorkeling is not the only activity available at Hanauma Bay. If you're into hiking, there are some trails that offer spectacular views. If you're motivated enough to get up early, you can get some excellent pictures of the sunrise over the bay