Visit Hanauma Bay for the best snorkeling spot in Oahu, Hawaii (updated 2023)

Hanauma Bay is really the premiere snorkeling spot on Oahu to experience the best of tropical fish, coral and marine life in this marine preserve. The Hanauma Bay nature preserve is perfect with its high fish population and coral reef, shallow bay that is protected and probably the tamest fish you’ll find on the island.

Visit Hanauma Bay for the best snorkeling experience you’ll have in Oahu with the most beautiful and well protected preserve in the State to enjoy now.

Visit Hanauma Bay

A little history on Hanauma Bay

Originally the crater was created about 40,000 years ago from intense and violent explosions of lava vents erupting directly from the ocean floor and blowing steam, rock, coral and ash around the perimeter and creating this crater effect of hard solid tuff and eventually becoming the cliffs that naturally protect the bay portion. Hanauma Bay is both a nature preserve and a Marine life conservation district.

The current process of creating a balance of tourism and preserving nature and marine conservation has has allowed visitation from a peak of 10,000 visitors daily to less than 1,000 daily visitors currently along with a reservation system that requires you book at least 48 hours in advance of your visit. Over 400 species of tropical fish live in the bay along with endangered honu or green sea turtles and other marine life.

A little history on Hanauma Bay

Where is Hanauma Bay located?

On the southeast end of Oahu, Hanauma Bay is located in a hollowed out volcanic crater that protects from major swells from destroying the fragile reef in the bay and is one of the best natural marine preserve on the island. Just a short drive from Honolulu and Hawaii Kai, Hanauma bay can be reached on Hwy 72 from Honolulu and goes directly to the entrance of the bluffs and parking area.

Where is Hanauma Bay located?

Sustainable Tourism

From a height of having over 10,000 visitors come daily, the city and county of Honolulu reversed course to allow only a maximum of 1,000 visitors daily to the nature preserve. The Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center was created in 2002 to teach visitors about this unique bay and the ocean ecosystem that thrives in this environment. This living ocean museum is cared for in a way that allows for visitors and also preserving the fragile ecosystem. All visitors to the bay must watch a video before entering the park area. After watching the video, you are allowed to enter and walk down to the beach area.

Snorkeling and diving

With a white sandy beach that extends out into the water a short distance, it is an easy entry to the ocean and see the coral beds right away to find a variety of spots to explore and snorkel. The area close to the shore is shallow and goes to an average depth of 15 feet and deeper the further out you go. There are interesting caves, crevices and rock formations beyond the coral areas to also explore and look for unusual marine life in the area.

Where is Hanauma Bay located?

Entrance to Hanauma Bay

Fee is $12.00 per person over 13 and free for under that age. Hawaii residents are also free to enter the beach area. Parking is available on the ridge above the beach area. Arrive early or later in the day because the parking lot fills early and costs $3 for parking. (there are only 300 spots in the parking lot). The alternative is to take the city bus or go with a private tour outfitter offering tours of Hanauma Bay so you don’t have to deal with all the hassles of driving and parking.

There is a 10-minute walk downhill to the beach area or you can take a tram ride for $1 and $1.25 for return

Open every day except Monday and Tuesday from 6:45am to 4pm

Reservations have to be done 48 hours in advanced

Check details on the main website here.

Entrance to Hanauma Bay

Check out this fun video exploring Hanauma Bay and snorkeling experiences.

Hanauma Bay Facilities and attractions

A nice sandy beach has all the amenities for beach fun and snorkeling to include:

Showers, restrooms and even lockers to store belonging

Concession stand and snorkeling rentals

Lifeguard stations

Grass picnic tables up by the parking lot area

How to get to Hanauma Bay

How to get to Hanauma Bay

From Honolulu or Waikiki drive down to Hanauma bay is just 10 miles east on Hwy 1 which then turns into Hwy 72. Continue past the Hawaii Kai Shopping center and you’ll eventually go uphill to the ridge area overlooking the bay. There is a parking sign to the Hanauma Bay entrance and follow it to get a parking spot. The parking area lots fill up early during the day time so getting early is key and you also need to reserve to get a spot into the beach and snorkel areas.

Other details to visiting Hanauama Bay

You have to make a reservation to enter Hanauma Bay now, please check their website details here to make a reservation that will work for you.

Only 1000 guests will be accommodated everyday at Hanauma Bay

Visitors will have to watch a video orientation on corals and tropical fish, safety and other snorkeling instructions.

Hanauma bay is open from 6:45am to 4pm from Wednesday to Sunday

Parking fee is $3 per car and $12 per person entering the beach area. Oahu residents are free.

There is a rental facility for snorkel gear at the beach area

There are lockers on site to store any valuables or personal effects

There is a snack bar concession on the upper part of the entrance area

Sun screens used in the water have to be reef safe protected screens only. Please make sure you only use reef safe which does not leak and of the typical toxins into the water which is harmful for all the marine life and tropical fish.

Other details to visiting Hanauama Bay

Weather and best time to visit Honolulu, Hawaii

Waikiki, located on the south shore of Oahu, Hawaii, is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and numerous activities. The best time to visit Waikiki depends on your preferences for weather, crowds, and activities. Here’s a breakdown of Waikiki’s weather and the ideal times to plan your trip:

Weather Overview:

  • Year-Round Tropical Climate: Waikiki enjoys a pleasant tropical climate, making it an attractive destination throughout the year. It has two main seasons: a dry season (summer) and a wetter season (winter).
  • Summer (June to August): Waikiki’s summer months are warm and relatively dry, with temperatures typically ranging from 75°F to 88°F (24°C to 31°C). These months offer plenty of sunshine and are ideal for beach activities, water sports, and outdoor exploration. Summer is considered the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices.
  • Fall (September to November): Fall is a fantastic time to visit Waikiki. The weather remains warm, with temperatures between 73°F and 87°F (23°C to 31°C). Rainfall is minimal during this time, and you can enjoy Waikiki with fewer crowds. It’s an excellent time for both outdoor activities and cultural events.
  • Winter (December to February): Waikiki’s winter is mild, with temperatures averaging between 68°F and 80°F (20°C to 27°C). This is the rainy season, especially on the windward (eastern) side of the island. While you might encounter some rain, it’s still possible to enjoy Waikiki’s attractions, and you’ll find fewer tourists during this time.
  • Spring (March to May): Spring is similar to fall, with pleasant temperatures ranging from 69°F to 82°F (21°C to 28°C). The island starts to dry out from the winter rains, and the landscape becomes lush and green. Spring is an excellent time to visit for both weather and smaller crowds.

Best Times to Visit Waikiki:

  • Late Spring (April to June): This period offers great weather with warm temperatures and minimal rainfall. It’s an excellent time to enjoy outdoor activities and explore Waikiki without the peak summer crowds.
  • Fall (September to November): Fall is another fantastic time to visit Waikiki. The weather is still warm, and you can enjoy the area with fewer tourists, making it easier to find accommodations and enjoy popular attractions.


  • Peak Tourist Season: If you don’t mind larger crowds and higher prices, visiting during the summer (June to August) can still be enjoyable, especially if you plan well in advance.
  • Water Activities: Waikiki offers a wide range of water activities, including surfing, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. Be sure to check the ocean conditions and surf reports for safety.
  • Festivals and Events: Waikiki hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year, so check the event calendar to see if any align with your travel dates.

In conclusion, Waikiki’s tropical climate means you can visit year-round, but late spring and fall offer a good balance of pleasant weather and fewer crowds. However, any time of year can be a great time to explore this iconic Hawaiian destination and enjoy its stunning beaches and vibrant atmosphere.

More inside tips to visiting Hanauma Bay in Oahu

Visiting Hanauma Bay in Oahu is a fantastic experience, and here are some inside tips to make the most of your visit:

Arrive Early: To avoid crowds and secure parking, arrive at Hanauma Bay as early as possible. The bay opens at 6:00 AM, and getting there before 8:00 AM is ideal.

Closed on Tuesdays: Hanauma Bay is closed every Tuesday for maintenance. Plan your visit accordingly.

Snorkeling Gear: While you can rent snorkeling gear at the bay, it’s often more cost-effective to bring your own. Make sure your equipment fits well and is in good condition.

Watch the Orientation Film: Before heading down to the bay, watch the mandatory 9-minute educational video at the visitor center. It provides valuable information about marine life conservation and safety.

Reef-Friendly Sunscreen: Use reef-safe sunscreen to protect your skin and the coral reefs. Non-toxic sunscreen helps preserve the bay’s delicate ecosystem.

Stay on the Designated Paths: Stick to the marked pathways and designated snorkeling areas to protect the coral and marine life. Avoid standing or stepping on the coral.

Fish Feeding Prohibited: Refrain from feeding the fish. Human food can harm their health and disrupt the natural ecosystem.

Pack Light: Bring only what you need for the day, as there are limited facilities. This includes food, drinks, and essentials.

Life Jackets: If you’re not a confident swimmer or new to snorkeling, consider using a life jacket for added safety.

Tide and Weather Awareness: Check the tide and weather conditions before snorkeling. If the water is rough or visibility is poor, it might be safer to delay your snorkeling adventure.

Respect Wildlife: Keep a respectful distance from marine life. Do not touch or harass sea turtles or any other creatures you encounter.

Rinse Off Before Entering: Use the showers provided to rinse off any sunscreen, lotions, or sand before entering the water. This helps maintain water quality.

Leave No Trace: Pack out everything you bring with you, including trash. Protect the bay’s natural beauty by leaving it as you found it.

Hiking: Consider hiking up to the Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail for panoramic views of the bay. It’s a short but steep hike that offers stunning vistas.

Patience: Be patient when it comes to finding a good spot for snorkeling. Once you’re in the water, take your time to explore and observe the marine life at a relaxed pace.

By following these tips, you can have a memorable and eco-friendly visit to Hanauma Bay while ensuring the safety and preservation of this beautiful marine sanctuary.

Check out these other attractions in the area

Check out the best snorkeling spots around Oahu

Explore the North Shore beaches of Oahu

Things to do around Hawaii Kai

Hike the Koko Head Trail

Visit Makapu’u trail and lighthouse

Best things to do at Waimanalo Beach

Conclusion on a Visit to Hanauma Bay

For snorkeling fun, you’ll love explore all fun activities and attractions around this easy accessible reef and beach areas of Hanauma Bay on the east side. Hope this gives you some great ideas of things to do and see around the town and outlying areas to visit.

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Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.