Hanauma Bay is one of Hawaii’s most famous beaches. With its calm shallow water, white sand and large fish population, it is popular among snorkelers. An old volcanic crater believed to be 35,000 years old, the bay is protected from virtually all sides. With almost no ocean swells, Hanauma Bay makes a great location for snorkelers of all ages and skill levels. This geographic quality can be found in its name Hanauma which literally translates to “curved bay.”
Hanauma Bay is not your average beach, but instead a “Nature Preserve.” The County of Honolulu has gone through extensive lengths to prevent any kind of damage done to the land. They have gone to the lengths of before even being allowed on the reserve, you must watch a short video in their Marine Education Center, which encourages goers and especially snorklers to treat Hanauma Bay as a “living museum.” Much of the damage came from its busiest years when Hanauma Bay had as many as 10,000 visitors, about half snorkelers. These days just a few thousand a day are allowed in daily to further prevent the impact to the ecosystem.
Once you leave the soft white sand that stretches throughout the bay, you will just need to venture out a few yards to begin seeing coral. With its calm waves, you will be able wade directly out with zero difficulty. After swimming out a short ways, you will find caves and various crevices to check out once you get to the larger coral reefs. With depths ranging from waste deep to 15 feet plus, this is a coral range that any level of enthusiast can feel comfortable venturing into.
As far as fish you may see while exploring the bay there are a plethora of possibilities: trumpet fish, parrot fish, moorish idol, damsel fish, invertebres, surgeon fish, tang, wrasse, cardinal fish, squirrel fish, big eyes, perch, chub, hawk fish, butterfly fish, mullet, cornet fish, needle fish, eels, crustaceans, and jacks are just naming a few.
For any non-residents of Hawaii and travelers over the age of 13, there is a $5 fee for entry. Parking is limited and once filled, you will be turned away, so make sure to get there early in the day. You can park there the whole day for $1. There is also a concession stand to buy food and drinks, as well as showers restrooms and lockers. For anyone worried about their small children, there is also a lifeguard on duty.