A must stop on every Oahu travel guide, we wanted to know if Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve was in fact, worth the hype. What did we find out? You guys, this place rocks. It totally lives up to the praise, and so much more.

Quick take-away: Go there – now. We love Hanauma Bay’s close proximity to Waikiki because it’s only a 30 minute drive, yet it feels worlds away. Even though there were a lot of visitors, it’s spacious enough to be spread out and not snorkeling right on top on each other. The cove, which was a flooded volcanic crater is downright gorgeous- we’re talking the stuff island dreams are made of- and worthy of all the accolades.

Established as the first Marine Life Conservation District in the state of Hawaii, Friends of Hanauma Bay have worked very hard to restore past damage on the fragile eco-system. They have set up educational videos and instructions on how to visit the bay safely and to continue to foster a healthy reef for the marine life that call this spot home. Thanks to their efforts, and to visitors who take care of the bay, the area is thriving with thousands of fish and other marine life.

With the high possibility of seeing Hawaiian green sea turtles, eels, rainbow fish, and dolphins, a snorkel trip should be on every Oahu traveler’s bucket list. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on the southeast side of Oahu is a great place to do that, boasting beautiful beaches and some of the best snorkeling on the island.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is an easy and memorable half-day trip. After a short educational video about the area, visitors can walk down to the white sand beach inside the cove, and snorkel, body surf or relax under the palm trees.

With the protection of the cove, the waters are pretty calm most of the time and offer great visibility of the coral and reefs. It’s a fantastic spot to take the whole family, with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the sand and surf. 

Travel Mindset Tips:

– Pack snacks and lots of water – there aren’t any concession stands at the beach.

– You can bring your own snorkel equipment to avoid rental lines and fees.

– Before you hit the water, lather on the sunscreen (especially on your back and legs- the places that will get constant sun while snorkeling).

– Bring cash. The parking lot is inexpensive but cash only.

– Don’t forget a GoPro or underwater camera to take photos of the marine life. 

– Look but don’t touch. The sea turtles are protected and if you touch them you’ll be fined.

– The walk to the beach is at a fairly steep incline (and the hike back up is equally steep), so if you or a family member need help up or down, you can pay for a trolley ride.

– The park is closed on Tuesdays as a “rest” day.

– Remember to take any trash home with you to keep the bay healthy and beautiful.

Sponsored by Oahu Tourism