Hanauma Bay

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One of the most beautiful and sought-after beach locations on the Island of Oahu, Hanauma Bay is a spectacular place to snorkel, dive, or simply soak up the Hawaiian sun. Attracting nearly 1 million visitors a year, the real majesty of Hanauma, however, is in its protected marine life and coral reef. Named a Marine Protected Area since 1967, the official name for this place is the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Its mission is to balance the importance of recreation and education about its beauty with the serious task of conservation and respect.

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Hanauma Bay History

Hanauma was named because Hana means “bay” in Hawaiian; uma, derives from another Hawaiian word which refers to its curved shape. In that sense, saying Hanauma Bay is redundant.

Geologically speaking, Hanauma’s creation began nearly 2 million years ago along with the Island of Oahu itself, the result of the location of the Hawaiian Islands on a hot spot on the Pacific tectonic plate. Hanauma itself, along with most of the other now-visible geographical features of Oahu were created between 10,000 and 500,000 years ago through the eruptions of the Ko’olau volcano, which is now dormant.

From a human perspective, Hanauma enjoys a history of a beautiful area which was popular among Hawaiian royalty. It was not really popular as a tourist destination, however, until at least the 1930s when a paved road finally connected Oahu’s southeast coast to the more popular Honolulu. After a brief sojourn as the location of a barbed wire-protected bunker in WWII, Hanauma was reopened with the help of conservation groups bent on educating the public about the value of the marine life and coral reef that called the bay home.

Alas, the conservation effort had very little appeal throughout most of the twentieth century and as a result Hanauma, which at the time was called the Hanauma Bay Beach Park, was mistreated by the busloads of tourists who visited it each year. As a result, the coral reef once located closest to the shore died and is now an ugly black reminder of the damage that thoughtlessness can cause.

Since that time, the Hanauma Bay Education Program and Friends of Hanauma Bay have established an education center that is dedicated to teaching Hanauma visitors about the importance of conservation. No longer a simple recreation area, each visitor must view a short video the first time he or she comes to the bay, which will explain how to treat the ocean life and coral reef that call it home.

In addition to its important role as a marine preserve and tourist hot spot, Hanauma is also a popular spot for on-location television and movie filming. Over the years, iconic Hawaii-based programs including Blue HawaiiHawaii Five-O, and Magnum PI have all used Hanauma as a main location for filming.

The Main Attraction

There is a lot that visitors can do and learn during a trip to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts can begin with a trip in the mornings to view the amazing Hanauma ocean life in their natural habitat. The bay is also an excellent place for swimming and sunbathing throughout the day. In addition, the education center run by the Hanauma Bay Education Program is an excellent place to learn about the creatures of the bay, their habitat and the importance of conservation.

Non-native Hawaiians must pay a fee to park at Hanauma and space in the lot is limited. In order to keep the tourist population controlled and contribute to the park’s conservationist mission, the park is closed once the lot is full. Also, Hanauma is closed to all visitors each Tuesday to give the native life a chance to feed and play without human interruption.

Why Hanauma Bay is a Must-See

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the most beautiful and special places on an island full of beauty. For visitors who love the ocean and sun, the pristine beaches of the bay are a great place to relax. For both serious and recreational snorkelers and divers, the early morning hours at the bay are an excellent opportunity to learn about the myriad of life forms that call the waters of the Pacific and the Hawaiian Islands home.

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Hanauma Bay Snorkel either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. Hanauma Bay tours are available on the Go Oahu Card and Honolulu Power Pass.