Some years back, I had the privilege of visiting Hawaii. For my honeymoon, my husband I decided to take an extra-special trip to the islands, so we stayed for a total of 10 days on Oahu, Maui and the “big island” of Hawaii. Suffice it to say that it was absolutely gorgeous, and hard to remember that we really weren’t in foreign country. My clearest memories of this state involve the strong aroma of native flowers that filled every hotel lobby (open aired as they were), eating macadamia nuts, and snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. Probably due to the fact that I’d never before snorkeled, this adventure would probably have stayed with me regardless, but doing so in this nature preserve was especially gratifying for a number of reasons. (I later snorkeled in Cancun, but still preferred Hanuama Bay.)
Located 10 miles east of Waikiki, Hanuama Bay was formed inside a volcanic cone by the oceanic incursion into two craters. One of the loveliest areas of the island, it was suggested by a concierge as the best place to snorkel. There are several tour operators that charge around $17-$20 per person; the one we chose offered a shuttle bus for transportation to and from our hotel. (It can be easily reached by public transportation as well.) We chose to spend about a half day, which offered plenty of time to spend in the water, as well as on the beach. For one price, we received flippers, a mask and snorkel, and an allotment of fish food-which I don’t believe is offered any longer. (We also chose to rent an underwater camera, and have realized countless times since then what a good decision that was. It’s still worth it at around $13 for 27 shots.) Anyway, after a short lesson, we were able to snorkel wherever we wished in the bay, along with a good many other guests. One of the really great things about Hanuama Bay is that it is relatively shallow; rarely did the water reach my neck. (That was an ideal situation for anyone who is snorkeling for the first time, as they will often wish to drain excess water from their mask, a task more easily achieved while standing on the firm ocean bottom.)
Believe me when I say that one did not need to look very far or for very long before spying fish! Some people take deep breaths while snorkeling in order to dive deeply, but I was more comfortable staying close to the surface, especially being on the lookout for photo opportunities. When I would see an exceptionally colorful specimen, I’d grab more air, then dive a bit deeper to get as close as possible before snapping. Unfortunately, a good many of the shots did not capture the entire fish bodies (and some included other swimmers as well) but I’m still very glad that I have them. Although all underwater photos are beautiful, knowing that you took them yourself adds even more delight.
The area is considered “one of the most spectacular natural resources in Hawaii” and is enjoying years of working for the re-establishment of its marine ecosystem. It’s clear, as advertised, that its purpose is not for beach sports, but for protecting marine life. As such, it is the first Marine Life Conservation District in Hawaii. Hanauma Bay also offers tours, scuba diving and picnic facilities, and is one of the most frequently visited tourist spots in Oahu. At one time, it was receiving up to 3,000,000 guests each year. This prompted action plans to be put in place to limit the number of guests at any one time, and close for environmental conservation every Tuesday.
Hanauma Bay clearly “walks the talk” when it comes to protecting natural habitat, and by doing so, provides more to be appreciated as well as enjoyed. Anyone who is considering a visit to Waikiki owes it to themselves to visit the park, to witness the way nature intends to be. (And, if they like to swim with the fishes, Hanauma Bay is certainly the best place to do it!)
For recorded information about the park regarding hours of operation and entrance and parking fees, call (808) 396-4229.