Hanauma Bay exemplifies Oahu’s commitment to sharing Hawaii with tourists from around the world by precariously balancing preservation and exploration. I was delighted to find another beachfront experience just as authentic as the North Shore.
The bay has been touted a must see for anyone looking to get up close and personal with the Island’s reef dwelling wildlife. It’s true, the reef is crawling with creatures that many may only get to see once in a lifetime.
If you are looking for an awesome snorkeling adventure, look no further. My family and I had hours of fun exploring the reef and enjoying the beach. The moment I dunked my head below the surface I was greeted by a small school of fish. Without taking a second to attempt to identify the fish, I stood up and ejected the snorkel from my mouth so I could shout for my brother to come and see.
From that moment on I was hooked. Even if there hadn’t been any fish, I could have swam through the intricate reef all afternoon. In fact, I did. I decided to swim the length of the beach, from one side of the bay to the other, so that I wouldn’t miss out on any special reef formations. The depth of the water varied. At times it was seven or eight feet deep, other times I couldn’t swim on top of the reef without it scraping my entire body.
Once I reached the other side, I determined that I didn’t achieve anything except a nice, challenging swim. The reef and the wildlife appeared to be consistent across the bay. I decided to swim back over to my brother and explore with him. I returned to find my mother teeming with excitement. She had just gone for a brief swim and as soon as she had passed the breaking waves, a sea turtle brushed up against her!
The beach was extremely photogenic, the water was the perfect temperature, and the experience was unforgettable.
If you plan to make a trip to Hanauma Bay be smart and think ahead. Due to the preservation efforts at this State Park, there are a few required informational briefings that you must attend before you start your trek down to the beach.
Conflict arose years ago when it became clear that the large number of tourists that visited each day were hindering the bay’s ability to thrive. Today, efforts to preserve the area are evident almost everywhere you look. There are many common sense rules posted that inform snorkelers of the best ways to fully enjoy the area without excessively disturbing anything. There is also a documentary style video summarizing the history of Hanauma Bay in order to give visitors an idea of the area’s history. There are many wildlife identification posters, too, that will help you make the most out of your time exploring the reef.
It is important that you take into account the money you will spend on this trip. Expect to pay a couple of dollars for parking, rental equipment (flippers, goggles, snorkel), and the shuttle down to the beach (unless you plan to walk). It is worth every penny.