Snorkelling in Hanauma Bay: dos and don’ts

Snorkelling in Hanauma Bay was easily one of the highlights of my Hawaiian holiday back in May. There’s just something invigorating about being in crystal-clear water with so many beautiful fish; it always makes me wish I had an underwater camera.*Sigh*

Home to about 400 different species of fish, stunning Hanauma Bay is just as pretty below the surface as it is above. The bay is also known for its abundance of turtles, although I wasn’t lucky enough to see one this time (read about my close encounters with sea snakes and turtles in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia), no matter how desperate I was to catch a glimpse of one.

Hanauma Bay may not boast the best snorkelling in Hawaii – or even on the island of O’ahu – but it is among the most popular tourist destinations. That’s probably because it’s so close to Waikiki and Honolulu that you can spend half a day there, as we did, and still be back in time for happy hour.

If you’re heading over to Hanauma Bay, here are some dos and don’ts that you should be aware of…

Hanauma Bay snorkelling


Bring togs and a towel. Obviously.

Bring loads of sunscreen.

Bring a camera: the view is spectacular, especially from the hill that leads down to the bay.

Be patient: you have to watch a 20 minute video before you get to enter Hanauma Bay. Sometimes, depending on how busy it is, you’ll have to wait a while.

Bring some money: at the time of writing, it costs $7.50 to enter Hanauma Bay State Park.

Bring some snacks & water: there are some kiosks and a crappy fast-food restaurant in the carpark. However, you’ll have to pay a little bit more than you would at an ABC Store in Waikiki.

Swim out to the edge of the coral: if you’re a reasonably strong swimmer like I am, you should go out to the edge of the coral. I found the sea life to be more plentiful here – plus you can snorkel in peace because you’re away from most of the other tourists.

Arrange transport: Hanauma Bay is roughly 10 miles (16km) from Waikiki. You can catch a shuttle from your hotel – that’s what we did – or there is a public bus (#22) that goes nearby. However, from what I’ve read, the public bus does seem to take a long time to reach Hanauma Bay, and the service runs fairly infrequently. (If you do catch the bus, let me know how you get on and I’ll update this article accordingly!)

Arrive early if you’re driving in your own vehicle: apparently the carpark at Hanauma Bay fills up fast during the peak tourist season.

Hanauma Bay snorkelling


Worry if you haven’t got any snorkel gear: you can rent it here. However, I can’t tell you how much it costs as our gear was supplied.

Visit on a Tuesday: Hanauma Bay is closed to the public every Tuesday, and at Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Expect to have it all to yourself: Hanauma Bay has more than 3000 visitors per day on average, and around one million visitors per year.

Catch the shuttle down: unless you’re really lazy or you’ve got an injury, it’s a nice walk down to the beach. I didn’t think the walk back up the hill was too difficult, either.

Stand on the coral: nothing pissed me off more than seeing idiotic tourists standing on the coral. The video that you have to watch before you enter the park quite clearly tells you not to do this, and yet I saw heaps of tourists doing it. It’s not cool, assholes; you’re ruining the coral reef for everyone.

About Simon Petersen 506 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.

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