Hanauma Bay Snorkel Tours and Beginner Scuba Diving Tours
What is the best way to visit Hanauma Bay?
The best way in our opinion is on a guided tour.
You will have a guide that can give you instructions and
take you to the best area of the bay safely.
Taxis, Public Buses and Rent A Cars are other options.
The parking lots fills up early and you may not be able to get in with a rent a car.
Hanauma Bay is located on the southeastern shore of the island of Oahu.
The address is 7455 Kalanianaole Highway.
It is about 20 minutes from Waikiki by car and 45 minutes by bus.
How much is the entrance fee and parking?
The entrance fee to Hanauma Bay is $7.50. Parking is $1. There are 300 parking spaces at Hanauma Bay. The parking lot is closed when the lot becomes full. It is reopened once parking spaces become available. During the busy seasons the parking lot fill up before 9:00 a.m.
How long does it take to get into Hanauma Bay?
Everyone is required to see a 9 minute video about Hanauma Bay before entering the park. The theater has a 110 person capacity. Show times are 4 times per hour. The waiting time to see the video can be 10 minutes to 60 minutes and longer during peak seasons. After you see the movie, you can sign your name on a list and then you do not need to see the movie for one year. Commercial snorkeling and scuba tours with State permits are allowed directly into the park and theater. One instructor is required for 5 people.
When is Hanauma Bay open?
Hours: Wednesday through Monday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. (closed Tuesdays)
Is fish feeding allowed?
A ban on fish feeding at Hanauma Bay became effective on July 15, 1999.
Is cigarette smoking allowed at Hanauma Bay?
Smoking is not allowed inside Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Smoking is allowed out side of the entrance to the park. You can have your hand stamped and go outside and smoke and return back in.
What is Hawaii's water temperature?
Hawaiian waters are inviting year-round, averaging 74 degrees F (23 C) and reaching close to 80 degrees F (26 C) in the summer months
What does Hanauma mean?
Hanauma pronounced "ha now ma" is a Hawaiian word that can have several meanings. Originally, the Hawaiian language was not a written language. It was passed down orally through song, dance, stories and legends from one generation to the next. This oral transmission resulted in some changes and loss to place names. Place names frequently described a salient landmark or feature or may describe an important historical event.
In place names, hana refers to a bay or valley. Uma can have multiple meanings. 1) Uma can refer to a curve, as in the natural geological formation of the crescent shape of the bay. 2) Another meaning refers to the sport of handwrestling, uma, where opponents knelt with elbows on the ground and right hands locked together and tried to force the other down. Hanuama Bay was known as a place where ali‘i the ruling class would gather to play uma as well as other recreational activities. 3) The stern of a canoe is also known by the term uma. Traditional Hawaiian navigators would ride a strong current across the Ka‘iwi Channel from Ilio Point on Moloka‘i to Hanauma Bay with relatively little effort. Thus three suggested meanings for Hanauma Bay are:
1) curved bay
2) handwrestling bay
3) canoe stern bay
Can large groups visit Hanauma Bay?
Visitng schools and community groups are required to obtain a permit prior to visiting Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. The permit is for 2 hours, of which about 1/2 an hour is devoted to a mandatory educational orientation. The permit is free. Please read the following information to ensure an enjoyable visit.
*A one week notice is required
2) Be prepared to give: name of group, group contact person, date of visitation, time of visitation, number in group, age or grade level of group, grop phone numbers and email address
3) Confirm date and time of visitation.
4) Hanauma Bay's Recreation Specialist will call the City Parks and Permit office to confirm your reservation and a permit will be issued for your group.
5) Pick up your permit at the City Parks and Recreation Office on the first floor of the Honolulu Municipal Building at 650 South King Street. (808) 523-4523
For out of town visitors, a representative of your group must pick up the permit prior to visiting the nature preserve. The permit office is not able to mail permits and is not allowed to release the permit to any individual other than the group representative.
After arriving at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, your group will be met by a staff member of Hnauma Bay Education Program who will conduct an orientation of the preserve lasting 30 minutes. Topics covered in the orientation may include
* reef ecology
* marine life identification
* cultural history
* Regulations of protected areas
Some groups that visit may choose to have a land based program. If this is the case, please let us know and a more in-depth program can be arranged. Programs are also available focusing on one or more of the above topics.
Please consult the Lifeguards regarding ocean safety questions for your group and before entering the water.
The followings are prohibited:
* taking or altering any coral, sand, shell or rock
* taking or injuring of marine life
* feeding of fish or birds
* walking on the living coral
Hanauma Bay is the home to many animals including the threatened green sea turtle. The green sea turtle is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as Hawaii State laws. It is illegal to harass, chase, touch, or feed sea turtle
When did Hanauma Bay become a Marine Life Conservation District?
Hanauma Bay was designated a Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD) in 1967. This is an area that the State of Hawai‘i set aside to protect marine life. It is governed by State statutes, Regulation 32. It states that it is unlawful to fish, possess fishing gear, remove any marine organisms or contaminate the waters within the conservation district. This law is enforced by the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Prior to 1967, most types of fishing was allowed in the bay. It was a popular fishing and camp grounds for people from Honolulu. By the 1960’s fish stocks began to decline from the heavy fishing pressure. A University of Hawai‘i marine biologist, Dr. Ernst Reese had proposed that the bay be set aside as a natural, living museum. Many fishermen protested this idea for fear of setting a precedent to close other traditional fishing grounds. An underwater survey was conducted by Chapman Lam and the data gathered was used to convince the State Legislature to designate the site as an MLCD.
Are there Hawaiian legends about Hanauma Bay?
Many legends were told of Hanauma Bay. Legends were often expressed in the form of traditional songs, chants and dance. One love story recants the tale of two very powerful ali‘i or chiefs. They were both experts in the sport of uma or handwrestling. This sport tested the strength of the participants by locking hands and forcing the opponent to the ground.
Ali‘i Kk (blood) and Ali‘i Hana (work, act) both fell deeply in love with the most beautiful maiden in Hawai‘i, Keohinani. Her father was the guardian of Hanauma Bay, Keanamo‘o, the great lizard. Her hand in marriage was to be decided by a contest of strength and perseverance to determine their nobility. All day the two men struggled to prove their greatness yet each was equally strong. As the twilight began to fall the score remained even in match after match.
Keohinani loved both men and it pained her to see their suffering and loss of dignity. As the contest continued she climbed to the top of the crater. As she climbed, ascending closer to the gods she called to the akua. "Transform me into a hill so the pain and suffering will be over". Instantly, she was transformed into part of the crater, to the hill today called "fair mountain", Kohelepelepe, where the modern day radar station stands. Her unselfish deed allowed her suitors to gaze with awe upon her beauty and innocence forever.
Her father, deeply moved and pleased by his daughter’s humble act of kindness transformed himself into the crater rim above her that encircles Hanauma Bay. These two inter-twined ridges remind us today of the locked arms of the sport of uma that gave rise to the crater rims of Hanauma Bay.
What is the geology of Hanauma Bay?
Hanauma Bay is part of the Ko‘olau mountain range that was formed on the east side of the island of O‘ahu. Subsequent to the end of the volcanic activity that formed the main range, the north-east side of the crater collapsed and fell into the sea, leaving the Pali cliffline as evidence of this giant landslide. After the eruptions that formed the Ko‘olaus there was a period of volcanic quiet lasting for at least two million years.
More than 30 separate eruptions flowed out over the eroded landscape and onto the fringing reef about half a million years ago when rejuvenation-stage volcanism occurred. This "Honolulu Series" of flows gave rise to many salient geologic features on O‘ahu including Diamond Head, Punchbowl and Hanauma Bay.
The flows that formed the craters of Hanauma Bay began about 40,000 years ago. Hanauma Bay is a compound crater formed by at least six separate cones. The Hanauma Bay craters are nested in another earlier crater. One of the latest stages of volcanics includes the Kk Crater. Nine eruptions along the Kk fissure occurred over the next several thousand years following the initial outbreaks of these late stage eruptions. The cratered cones of Hanauma Bay were built by hydromagmatic explosion of the Surtseyan type. The open vent was underwater and as a result of contact with the water, the magma was finely fragmented resulting in the predominately ash cones. This type of explosion produces fine ash that settles onto land, and due to the chemical reaction of the material becomes firmly cemented in place. This hardened ash is refereed to as tuff, forming the tuff cones of Hanauma Bay. These violent explosions blasted through a previously established coral reef. White fragments of limestone imbedded within the consolidated ash from the underlying reef can be seen in the walls of tuff today. Research indicates the formation of the reef approximately 32,000 years ago. Black basaltic fragments and olivine crystals can also be seen in the crater walls and the sands of the bay. A olivine beach is evident in the "Toilet Bowl" section of the bench. The mineral olivine is found in areas of geologically recent volcanic activity.
Sea cliffs were formed from erosion of the crater walls of Hanauma Bay. The sea cliffs of the bay were formed as extensive wave action and weathering undercut the tuff causing large areas to fall into the sea or on the underlying bench below. This bench developed below the cliffs and ranges from 1- to 6 meters above sea level. This coastal bench formation was exposed to wave action. The waves protected the bench from desiccation. Salt weathering was the major factor in the retreat of the cliff wall. Thus the bench formed as a result of the retreat and degradation of the adjacent cliff rather than from the exposure to waves.
Hanauma Bay is diverse in marine habitats. Tidepools are evident in shallow waters at the reef edge. The reef at Hanauma Bay is a fringing reef, one that grows along the shoreline. As elsewhere in Hawai‘i, the greatest contributor to the reefs are calcareous red algae that secrete a hard material cementing accreted substances to the underlying substrate. The back reef area is located near the sandy beach and is composed largely of sand or coral rubble. This reef flat has been extensively modified by anthropogenic activity. Photographs by Chester K. Wentworth depicting the coral cover in 1926 are evidence of the decline in coral cover on the inner reef flat. The fore reef or reef front protects the beach from erosion by absorbing most of the wave energy. A spur and groove region creates channels to further dissipate the wave force. The deeper reefs with more extensive coral cover extend out to the mouth of the bay to 30 meter depths.
What types of plants grow at Hanauma Bay?
Two main zones divided the beach park. The surrounding cliffs and ridges have climate typical of island windward regions. Hot and dry with shallow soil prevent the growth of most flora. This region includes the introduced Australian saltbush, Bermuda grass, Kiawe, Koa haole, coconut palms, banyan trees and hialoa. The shoreline region include the halophyllic vegetation tolerant to salt spray like the native ilima, naupaka and pohu‘ehu‘e. Various introduced grasses were planted above the high tide line.
An endemic fern, Marsillea villosa can be found on the flats above the cliff above witches brew. This plant has been placed on the endangered species list. It reproduces only in times of heavy rainfall.
Is there wildlife at Hanauma Bay?
Introduced mice, rats, mongoose, insects and lizards inhabit the area. Common introduced birds include pigeons, mynahs, doves, sparrows and cardinals. Feral cats can also be found in the area.
Do they have public telephones at Hanauma Bay?
The Board of Water Supply services the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Koko Head Reservoir 405 has a capacity of 200,000 gallons and also serves the surrounding Portlock community. A 2,400 foot, 8 inch pipe transects the west ridgeline of the crater.
Electric and telephone lines run overhead down the cliff to the restrooms and concession below. Four public telephones and 9 business phones are located in the beach area. These service the lifeguard stand, the concessions, the visitors center and the caretaker’s house.
How many restrooms are there at Hanauma Bay?
Hanauma Bay Preserve contains four restroom buildings. The regional wastewater system is processed at the Hawai‘i Kai Sewage Treatment Plant across from Sandy Beach. Effluent from the plant is discharged through an offshore outfall extending 3,000 feet off Sandy Beach. This secondary sewage treatment is released in 35 feet of water.
What is the recent history of Hanauma Bay?
Road to Makapu'u completed accessing Hanauma Bay.
Ownership transfer of Hanauma Bay and Koko Head District Park from Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate (KSBE) to the City and County of Honolulu is finalized. The deed specifies the area to be used as public recreational and public access. The Bishop Estate sold the leasehold area for one dollar.
In October of this year, Kalanianaole Highway was opened to the public. This provided a coastal link from Hanauma Bay to Sandy Beach.
Military defenses established including Hanauma Bay to protect from Japanese invasion.
The State bus system, the Honolulu Rapid Transit (HRT) was extended to include Hanauma Bay. This trial route was established for weekends and holidays only. A beach access road was constructed by the County Parks Dept. to allow access to the beach for both the public and maintenance crews. Restrooms, showers and three swimming holes were added during a park improvement project.
The City and County of Honolulu budgets $150,000 to dredge 3 large swimming holes, construct a road from the cliff top to the beach, construct a water tank and improve the parking lot. The Bus starts service to and from Hanauma Bay.
The Honolulu Rapid Transit System permanently adds the Hanauma Bay extention route to provide bus service to the park on weekends and holidays.
An archaeological survey is conducted. The Hanauma Bay shelter cave is excavated revealing remains that suggest this site was used as a fishing shelter in the past.
Public safety and traffic congestion forces the closure of the beach access road. This is later revised due to public outcry, allowing limited access on weekdays from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Drop off of camping gear, passengers and recreational equipment were allowed but all vehicles were required to park in the parking lot.
A report by the City Parks Superintendent was released. It stated that 50,000 people annually had used the Bay in each of the years from 1950 to 1956. Prior use had been documented as 8,000 people a year. A 200 foot wide channel is cut through the coral reef by Hawaiian Dredging to lay the first stage of an underwater telephone cable linking Hawai'i and the West-Coast. Costs exceed $18,000. The dynamite blasting of the reef and construction equipment forces the closure of the Bay to the public. In November of this year, construction of the project is completed and Hanauma Bay is reopened for public use.
"Blue Hawaii" starring Elvis Presley is filmed at Hanauma Bay. Keo Nakama is the first official person to swim from Molokai to Hanauma Bay.
A proposal to establish a marine sanctuary and underwater park is submitted by the State Fish and Game Division.
The beach concession stand is opened.
In October of this year, Hanauma Bay is officially designated a Marine Life Conservation District by the Board of Land and Natural Resources. The conservation status makes it illegal to fish or remove any marine life or other marine resources from the Bay. A survey of the fish populations is conducted by the Hawai'i Cooperative Fisheries Unit. The Hawai'i Council of Diving Clubs proposes that the Bay be designated as an underwater park. The proposal includes complete mapping of the Bay and a beach pavilion to display charts of the Bay.
The City Parks Dept. releases plans for erosion control and beach improvement. In November of this year, plans are approved by the State Dept. of Land and Natural Resources, the Dept. of Transportaion and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Permits were not issued at this time.
The Division of Aquatic Resources begins conducting fish surveys of the Bay.
Increased concerns of erosion led to speculation by City Officials that beach erosion was caused by wave action attributed to the transpacific cable trench. Plans were made to create a 100 x 15 foot underwater boulder wall to lessen impact to the beach. A new swimming area and a passage through the reef for divers was also planned. Beach restoration was to be implemented by the addition of 4,000 cubic ft. of sand. Due to increased concerns of siltation and beach erosion, the City Dept. of Parks and Recreation began the erosion control and park improvement project. The $110,000 project did not obtain the necessary permits to begin the work. The work was started in April but soon halted until permits were secured. The permit was approved by the Army Corp of Engineers and construction resumed in May. The Dept. of Land and Natural Resources was appropriated $50,000 by the Legislature for restoration of the Bay.
The Hawai'i Register of Historic Places places Hanauma Bay Cave Shelter on their list of historic places.
The State's Dept. of Land and Natural Resources plans a kiosk, public safety signs and buoys to be installed with Legislature appropriation of $50,000. Surveys, and mapping of underwater trails are conducted by the University of Hawaii's Marine Option Program in preparation of underwater guided tours and a specimen showcase.
"The Ocean: Hawaii's Last Frontier" conference is held in March. Following the suggestion of underwater trail markers suggested at the conference, the City Parks and Recreation Dept. and the Marine Option Program begin basic snorkeling classes and guided underwater tours for a fee in April. Classes and tours are offered daily during the summer.
The kiosk display featuring marine life in Hanauma Bay is installed by the State Parks Division.
The Hanauma Bay Beach Park Site Development Plan and Report is presented to the City and County of Honolulu's Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
A new permit was issued by the Dept. of Parks and Recreation to control use of beach access road by commercial tour operators and the public. The City is absolved of and liability by permit holders. Permit holders may drop off recreational gear only. Passengers are no longer allowed to be dropped off or picked up from beach.
Shuttle service begins to transport passengers from the parking lot to the beach. A five year contract was issued to a concessionaire and all previous contracts with dive tour operators are cancelled.
Increasing numbers of visitors to Hanauma Bay prompt a million dollar park improvement project. Services include drainage, a new access road, parking lot expansion, and picnic areas, landscaping and lighting.
To limit the use of the Bay, the Board of Land and Natural Resources restricts parking stalls to 390 spaces. Commercial operators agree to limit visitor trips to the Bay on weekends to alleviate overcrowding problems. A total ban is suggested for all commercial activities at Hanauma Bay.
In response to DLNR pressure, the City imposes a ban on commercial activity. The Board of Land and Natural Resources fines the City $2,000 for failure to enforce the ban against commercial operators on Conservation Lands in Hanauma Bay. The City Police Dept. Tactical Operations Division conducts undercover sting operations at the Bay to curtail illegal commercial activity. A sewage spill in June forces closure of the Bay for 8 days. Periodic cesspool overflow had been occurring with the knowledge of the City.
Commercial operators require permits that they protest are too expensive. The City's $1.4 million dollar project begins in March to construct additional picnic areas, relocate a 200 stall parking lot and second access road and turnaround area for buses and vans. In April, commercial scuba diving and snorkeling is allowed. The Conservation District use permit restricts the numbers to 130 divers at a time. This number is based on 10% of the City's estimated carrying capacity of 1,350 people. In November, a symposium on Hanauma Bay is held. City officials release use figures. Numbers have increased 10 fold from 1970 to 1981 from 210,000 to 2,000,000 visitors annually.
A concessionaire is award the contract to sell food and rent snorkeling equipment at the pavilion. The $1.4 million dollar park improvement project is completed and an additional 120 stall parking lot is added.
A permit to conduct hiking tours along the rim of Hanauma Bay is approved by the State Board of Land and Natural Resources. Outdoors Hawai'i may bring in no more than 15 people and 2 vehicles daily.
Aquamatics proposes to expand shuttle service between Waikiki hotels and Hanauma Bay. Public opposition halts a bill proposing parking fees to support additional facilities and employees. A ten-member task force was developed to make recommendations by the end of the year on the Bay's physical and environmental limits. The committee never released any report, findings or proposal. The Planning Commission reviews plans to renovate existing beachside buildings.
Boats are banned from entering waters of Hanauma Bay. Enforcement is given to DLNR enforcement officers and the Dept. of Transportation Harbors Patrol. Hypodermic needles are found washed ashore at the southwest corner of the Bay.
Hanauma Bay Management Plan implemented. Information desk offering educational tours on a limited basis
Smoking ban at Hanauma Bay.
Name change from Beach Park to Nature Park to Nature Preserve.
Admission on Donation basis.
Non-resident Admission Fee ($3), Parking fee($1). Entry fees funding for HBEP'sforseeable future.
New HBEP education venter opened. New volunteer area explored to reach more visitors.
Fish Feeding Ban and Carrying Capacity Study
HBEP celebrates a decade of environmental education, now educating 80-90 percent of Hanauma Bay's visitors.
The City and County of Honolulu has begun improvements at the Koko Head Regional Park in East Oahu. T. Iida Contracting was awarded the construction contract and KFC Engineering Management Inc., will serve as the construction management for the improvement project. The architects for the improvement project were Group 70 International and INK Architects for the upper park and lower bay areas respectively. Work began in April of 2001 and the improvements are expected to cost $10.6 million. Costs for the improvements will be covered by revenue generated at the bay. The Koko Head Regional Park is comprised of eight principal areas including the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Sandy Beach and Koko Head District Park. The improvement project will focus primarily on three areas within Koko Head Regional Park:the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve “upper park” and “lower bay” areas, and the site of theformer Hawaii Job Corps Center.
Planned improvements at the upper park area of the Nature Preserve include replacement and upgrade of existing facilities through:
the construction of a new marine education center
relocation of the snack bar from the lower bay area to the upper park
reconstruction of the beach tram loading area and turn-around
demolition of the existing visitor center buildings
construction of a new parking fee collection booth
landscaping the existing parking lots with shade trees
Planned improvements at the lower bay area of the Nature Preserve include replacement and upgrade of existing facilities through:
demolition of the existing snack bar/snorkel concession building
replacement and relocation of the snorkel rental facility, main comfort
station and adjoining showers
construction of an information kiosk
construction of a new lifeguard safety equipment storage facility
repaving of the beach access road
replacement of the beach tram turn-around
upgraded landscaping in the new facilities areas
All of the planned improvements at the Koko Head Regional Park, including the exhibit and concession areas, are expected to be completed in 2002. Visitors to the bay will not be impacted by the construction activities except for a two week shut down of the park from April 16 to May 1, 2002. The contractor will also work at night on selected days to further lessen the impact to bay users.
August 16, 2002 - Grand Opening at Hanauma Bay. The renovation is complete and open to the public. Everything is new from the life guard stands to the showers, restrooms, snack shop and landscaping. The total cost of the renovation project reached a little over 13 million dollars.
There is a 7 minute video at the new education center, which everyone must see before entering the lower area of the bay. The average wait to see the video is 30 minutes, but may be as long as an hour during busy times. After seeing the video, you may sign your name on a list at the information booth and then you may enter the park immediately on your next visit. This is good for a one year period. The video is very interesting and covers the history and preservation of Hanauma Bay.
November 2002: Hanauma Bay opens in the evening on Saturdays until 10:00 p.m. Mostly residents visit in the evening to snorkel with a flash light or do a night dive. The bay is exceptionally beautiful when there is a full moon.
Dr Stephen Best Beaches in the USA
AMERICA'S BEST BEACHES 2003
America's Top Beaches for 2003 are:
1. Kaanapali, Hawaii-the National Winner
2. Fort DeSoto Park, Florida
3. Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
4. Hanalei Bay, Hawaii
5. Caladesi Island State Park, Florida
6. Main Beach, East Hampton, New York
7. Makalawena Beach, Hawaii
8. Hanauma Bay, Hawaii
9. Cape Florida State Recreational Area, Florida
10. Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
Previous National Winners, which are excluded from the survey, are:
2002 St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Florida
2001 Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii
2000 Mauna Kea Beach, Hawaii 1999 Wailea Beach, Hawaii 1998 Kailua Beach Park, Hawaii
1997 Hulopoe, Hawaii1996 Lanikai Beach, Hawaii1995 St. Andrews SRA, Florida
1994 Grayton Beach SRA, Florida
1993 Hapuna, Hawaii
1992 Bahia Honda SRA, Florida
1991 Kapalua Bay Beach, Hawaii
All of these beaches and hundreds more are described in
"America's Best Beaches"
by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman
Hanauma Bay Snorkel Tours and Beginner Scuba Diving Tours