Snorkelling in a Volcanic Crater at Hanauma Bay

While we were in Hawaii we were on a pretty big search for sea turtles. We were really hoping to just come across one swimming in the water, how amazing would that be!

So with our goal of finding sea turtles in mind we set off to Hanauama Bay for a day of snorkelling on the reef in Hawaii. Hanauma Bay is both a Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District and is one of the best places for snorkelling and checking out some of Hawaii’s marine life.

hanauma bay

About Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is home to a thriving reef that developed from a volcanic explosion about 32,000 years ago. Sitting inside this volcanic cone, Hanauma Bay has been restored after years of neglect and abuse from the millions of visitors who have come to visit over the years. These days the nature preserve is thriving, with renewed life and a much healthier environment.

As one of Oahu’s most loved places for thousands of years, Hanauma Bay gets its name from two Hawaiian words – ‘hana’ with means bay, and ‘uma’ which means curved. To the native Hawaiians there are many legends about how the curved bay got it’s name. Records actually show that Hawaiian royalty in the 1800s often stayed at the bay for entertainment and fishing.

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hanauma bay

Visiting Hanauma Bay

Each day an average of 3,000 visitors make their way down to Hanauma Bay, which is approximately one million visitors per year. It’s now one of the Top 3 attractions on Oahu and it tries to limit it’s visitors to focus on educating tourists about the natural wildlife of the area.

Before you are allowed down to the beach you watch a 10 minute movie about the history of the bay, the different types of fish and coral that you can expect to see in the water, and the importance of preserving nature and being respectful in such a sensitive environment.

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hanauma bay

To help you plan your trip to Hanauma Bay, here’s everything you need to know:

To make the most out of your day on the bay, book yourself onto the Hanauma Bay Snorkel Tour. For $25 USD per person, this tour offers everything you need for the day, including:

  • Roundtrip transfers from Waikiki
  • Narrated tour to Hanauma Bay
  • Masks, fins and snorkel, as well as instructions on the best way to use them
  • Snorkelling safety tips
  • Lots of time to just hang out an enjoy the beach

The Hanauma Bay Snorkel Tour operates at 7:15am, 8:45am and 10:15am each day. You can find out more about all the tour options HERE.

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Admission: Tickets cost $7.50 USD per person to spend the day at Hanauma Bay, with free admission offered for locals with state ID, active military and kids under 12 years old.

hanauma bay

A few other costs you should be aware of on the day include:

  • Renting a standard snorkel set – $20 USD
  • Renting a premium snorkel set – $40 USD
  • Parking lot fee – $1 USD (there are only 300 car parks, so it’s a good idea to arrive early if you’re planning to drive yourself)
  • Small locker rental – $10 USD
  • Large locker rental – $12 USD
  • Tram ride down to the beach – $1 USD
  • Tram ride back up to the car park – $1.25 USD
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Opening hours: Hanauma Bay opens at 6am each day and closes at 7pm in the summer months, or 6pm in the winter months.

The bay is closed to the public every Tuesday to allow the fish a day of feeding without interruption, as well as Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Getting there: Hanauma Bay can be found in Hanauma State Park, found at 7455 Kalanianaole Highway. If you’re driving out from Waikiki take the H1 Freeway until it becomes the Kalanianaole Highway and continue for about 8 miles.

If you want to take the bus, jump on #22 from Waikiki and it’s about a 45-50 minute way one ride.

hanauma bay

Hanauma Bay is one of the best days out you’ll have on Oahu. It’s absolutely beautiful, the water is crystal clear with heaps of marine life swimming around underneath and the way the beach has formed inside the volcanic crater is a very unique site. It’ll be a day in Hawaii you won’t want to miss!

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Emma is a travel writer, photographer and blogger, chasing the sun around Australia. Travelling in her recently renovated vintage Viscount caravan, along with her husband Thom and daughter Macey, she's sharing the very best experiences from around her beloved sunburnt country.

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