Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (can you say that?)

If you don’t feel like surfing, or paddling, or other water activities, Hanauma Bay is considered a prime snorkel spot on Oahu. Even if you are not that keen on snorkeling, it might be worth a trip. The bay was formed thousands of years ago by an underwater volcano and shaped like a horseshoe. The bay has lovely sandy beaches but there is a lot of coral and rock in the water so you should think about either using flippers or reef walkers to avoid a painful cut to your feet. The beach does have lifeguards and first aid if the worst happens.
Getting to the bay is pretty easy. If you are in Waikiki, you can book a shuttle from a number of companies that will also include a snorkel mask and flippers. You do have to pay an entry fee, by the way unless you are a resident of Hawaii or on military service based on the islands. In that case, you get in free so bring ID if that applies to you..
The ride to the bay takes you past Diamond Head and if you are planning on going in a private vehicle, keep in mind the parking lot fills up very quickly so you might be better off with the shuttle service.
Because the bay is a protected environment, you are warned not to touch the coral. You also must sit through a short video about the bay. Protection is very important and they can’t emphasize that enough.
After the video, you head downhill, about 5 minute walk at the most. If you can’t make it down on your own power, there is a shuttle for 75 cents and coming back up is 1 dollar. The walk really is not hard and you can stop along the way and admire the view which is pretty spectacular.
You should also know that there are no food or concession stands down on the beach although you are welcome to bring food as long as you clean up your trash and there are picnic tables. There is a food stand at the top if you want to hike all the way back up again. At the very least, bring a drink because you do need fluids.
There are also lockers if you need to lock up your bag which I would recommend. A locker rental is 7 dollars but at least you know your things will be there when you get out of the water. There are also showers and bathrooms down on the beach if you need those facilities.
You can expect to see all kinds of fish, depending on the time of day and you might see a sea turtle or even a monk seal. I didn’t this time but have in the past and someone saw an eel–again something I missed but not especially sorry.
You should be on the lookout for Humuhumunukunukuapua’a –if you can pronounce that, you are way ahead of me. This is the name of Hawaii’s state fish and you will see that for sure. During the winter, occasionally you can see whales in the distance too.
The best time to go if you want to see fish is the morning.
Hanauma Bay is crowded, you will not find a quiet, secluded, empty beach. Forget it, not gonna happen, but it is a nice place to spend a few hours or even a whole day. Many of the staff are volunteers and they are happy to answer questions.
The bay is closed to the public on Tuesday although the Obamas were there this week on Tuesday. It didn’t interfere with anything since they are closed that day anyway.
The water is pleasant, not cold, and you really can’t go wrong with this trip so the next time you are in Honolulu, think about a trip to the bay and practice saying that word!
I did take pictures but they refuse to upload, no idea why. If you want to have a look, just go to this website and you can learn anything you might want to know and see pictures of the bay.

So, it’s time to say Aloha and see you on the bay.


  1. Pat Brown says:

    After 18 months living on Oahu, I learned how to say the name. Now do you know what it means? Fish with a pig-like nose. It can also refer to their appetite. They can eat practically anything as many people have found to their sorrow when they try to put them in a reef tank.

    I love Hanauma Bay. I was lucky to be there before it became so busy they had to start controlling visitors. Definitely a must do for all visitors to the island.

  2. elledruskin says:

    Yes, saying that name takes practice! And yep, they are kind of pigs in a way and they do kind of have that pig looking nose as weird as that sounds. You have to see it to believe. You’re so right, Hanauma Bay is definitely a great place to visit and I’ll be going back again another time.

  3. joylene says:

    I’m hoping to be there in April, soaking up the sun and seeing the sites. This sounds heavenly. And I’m not saying that just because I live in the north and all I see out my window is a frozen lake.

    Elle, hope you’ve taken lots of photos.

  4. elledruskin says:

    It is lovely, guaranateed. If you contact me offline, I will give you my phone number. You can plan on heaps of great stuff to do at whatever pace you want. I will try to upload the photos again, for some reason I keep getting a message that for security reasons, it cannot upload. We’ve had to be so vigilant about spammers, it blocks my photos now. Will see what I can do about that.

  5. Laura says:

    Yes, I’ve been there and thought it was great, and your cautions are right on! I don’t mind the protections/control of visitors to this spot. I think the shallow water is a plus for beginers, and if you’ve never tried snorkeling, this is an excellent spot to teach yourself! And bring an “underwater” disposable camera to take some shots for yourself!

  6. elledruskin says:

    Yes, a camera for underwater use is a good idea. The water is shallow enough for children, although kids should always be supervised. I hadn’t been snorkeling in years but after a few minutes it came back to me and really is not hard. Definitely pack sunscreen because you can forget how much sun you get with that sort of activity, especially on the surface of the water, and yes, you can dehydrate easily.
    The news says some big swells are due in on the North Shore, so it remains to be seen if a big surf competition will go ahead. I would love to go but it takes forward planning–parking is jammed and limited and traffic backs up for miles. Still, have to wait and see.
    Locals would consider staying overnight although Mainlanders would consider the trip to the North Shore a small one. Staying overnight is possible if a place is available and not likely to be honest, or if so, very expensive, but the “coconut wireless” here often reveals someone who knows someone who has a place up there so better start checking that out.

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