Whenever someone visits me in Oahu, I absolutely always take them to Hanauma Bay. It is simply the most beautiful spot on the island. It’s about a half-hour drive from Waikiki and there are plenty of shuttle services available to take you there. Before you are allowed down to the bay, you must first view a short film instructing visitors about the history and rules for Hanauma Bay. Don’t feed the fish; Don’t step on the reef; Snorkel with a buddy. When you pay your admission, you will receive a time-stamped ticket for the movie. During peak tourist times, the wait can be as long as an hour. But do not let that stop you !
After the movie, you can choose to either walk down to the bay or you can hop a shuttle bus. It’s a very short walk, but the bus is convenient if you are hauling lots of gear or kids. The ride down is 50 cents; the ride back up is $1.00. Down at the bay, there is a snorkel rental center; lockers; an information booth providing fish identification guides and safety information; outdoor showers; restrooms and changing rooms. If you want to purchase food or drinks, you must do so at the snackbar up by the main entrance. You are welcome to bring your own food and drink down to the beach.
The snorkeling here is wonderful. The water is very shallow and you do not have to go very far out to see lots of colorful fish. My son once saw an octopus and my husband saw a sea turtle. Earlier in the day seems to be the best time to see fish. Try to avoid the time when high tide is approaching because lots of sand gets kicked up and it can be kind of wavy. On the serious side, there are usually 3 or 4 drownings each year here. Know your limits; rent an inflatable vest to be safe; get some instruction on the proper use of the snorkel equipment.
Here are some tips:
* If you plan to return to Hanauma Bay within the next year, be sure to sign the “repeat visitor list” so you can skip the movie the next time you come. The sign-up list is in the front of the movie theater
* The parking lot fills up early. Once it is full, they will post a “Closed” sign down at the entrance. At this point, your only option is to drive around and keep checking back every fifteen minutes. Be patient, it will reopen again. But don’t wait too long to check back or it could reclose again! If you want to be safe, get here by 8AM during peak tourist times or take a bus or a shuttle. You can usually find parking if you come later in the day too.
* Be sure to get your hand stamped when you leave if you are planning to return the same day.
* Do not come on Tuesdays ! It is closed then to give the bay a chance to replenish. Check the official website above for current hours and admission costs.
* Watch out for the monthly Box Jellyfish influx. This usually occurs between 7 and 10 days following a full moon. On rare occasions, Hanauma Bay has closed because of a large amount of jellyfish in the water. This is usually not the case, but quite a few stingings have occurred during the peak influxes.