Hanauma Bay on Oahu is where tourism meets environmentalism

Sandy Beach, on Oahu's South Shore, is between Hanauma Bay and Makapuu Point.Sandy Beach
Sandy Beach, on Oahu's South Shore, is between Hanauma Bay and Makapuu Point.Sandy Beach /

Hawai’i has long been one of the most popular vacation spots in the world, particularly for Americans who can go to a topical paradise in their own country.

On an island chain filled with amazing views and one-of-a-kind experiences, Hanauma Bay State Park still manages to stand out. This natural wonder is a boon to people who live in the islands year-round as well as tourists stopping by for a visit.

Hanauma Bay over the years

Like large number of Hawai’i’s most iconic features, Hanauma Bay was formed in a volcanic cone. It’s been important to Hawai’ian culture for years as the delicate ecosystem was, and continues to be, home to a diverse range of wildlife.

Unfortunately, this all combined to make it a tourist hot spot. As is often the case in many places of natural beauty, overuse began to destroy the Hanauma Bay ecosystem over a period of years. It was all but torn apart.

In 1967, Hanauma Bay was declared a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park. This was the start of returning the area to its natural state, or as close as they could get it. The local government followed up on this in the 1990s by implementing additional controls.

This includes limiting the number of visitors per day and monitoring their interactions with environment. Touching the delicate coral reefs will deservedly get a visitor an earful. The park is also closed on Tuesdays to give the marine life some private time to feed.

Making the stop

For anyone planning a trip to Oahu, Hanauma Bay is a necessary addition to the itinerary. There’s a lot of natural beauty on the island, but there’s nothing quite like this park. The wildlife alone is worth it, as is the incredible snorkeling. Tours that include snorkeling trips to the bay can be booked, though doing so well in advance is highly recommended.

It’s not always easy to gain entrance as parking is limited. Just keep trying, and you’ll eventually get in. Arriving as early as possible certainly helps. As it’s on the edge of Honolulu, renting a car to get to the park isn’t a bad idea though there are other ways to get there.

Related Story. German travelers can enjoy famed Christmas markets thanks to drive-thrus in Bavaria. light

Once you’re through the gate, the park requires new visitors to watch an instructional video outlining it’s history and rules. Pay attention because these rules are important and enforced. The park does keep records so if you’ve seen the video recently, you won’t have to watch again.

This all seems like a lot of work but both the Hawai’ian government and people who make Hawai’i their home generally take conservation quite seriously. They expect the same out of anyone who visits their islands.

Hanauma Bay
HONOLULU, HI – JANUARY 15: A school of manini fish pass over a coral reef at Hanauma Bay on January 15, 2005 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Many coral reefs are dying from water pollution (from sewage and agricultural runoff), dredging off the coast, careless collecting of coral specimens, and sedimentation. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) /

The natural wonders of Hanauma Bay

There might be a few hoops to jump through but the park is more than worth it. Hanauma Bay itself is incredibly beautiful and is one of the most picturesque spots on the islands. There are numerous photo opportunities in and around the park.

It’s also home to an active and vibrant coral reef that’s loaded with incredible wildlife. The snorkeling there is amazing with fish in almost every direction you look. Green sea turtles, moray eels and box jellyfish also frequent the bay.

There are a variety of colorful birds around the park in addition to the occasional monk seal and dolphin. While they’re not an endemic species, Hanauma Bay is also a great place to spot mongooses darting from the bushes and around the gorgeous beach.

Next. Finally! Walt Disney World park hopper passes are returning!. dark

Keep in mind that there are also hiking trails that take visitors up and around the crater. It provides a gorgeous bird’s eye view of a spot that should not be missed. Spending a relaxing day filled with nature and wildlife in a stunning state park great addition to any trip.