Hanauma Bay, located on the eastern side of Oahu in Hawaii, is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in the world. With crystal clear waters and abundant marine life, it’s no wonder that Hanauma Bay draws thousands of visitors every year. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced snorkeler looking for a unique experience, this beautiful bay has something to offer everyone. In this article, we’ll cover what to bring when snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, tips on how to make your visit enjoyable and safe, where to find the best spots for snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, and more. So read on and get ready to explore one of Hawaii’s most spectacular underwater attractions!

Hanauma Bay and its Popularity for Snorkeling

Hanauma Bay is home to a wide variety of fish and marine life including brightly-colored parrotfish, eels, octopus, sea turtles, and whales. The bay itself is a partially submerged volcanic crater that was created over 32 million years ago. The crescent-shaped beach provides excellent conditions for snorkeling due to its calm waters and rich sea life. The coral reef that surrounds the bay creates a protected environment that prevents strong currents from entering the area, making it ideal for beginners and experienced snorkelers alike. Hanauma Bay also offers clear visibility with depths ranging from about three to eight meters. This makes it easy to spot colorful sea creatures and explore the diverse ecosystem in their natural habitat.

What to Bring When Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay

Woman snorkeling surrounded by fish

When preparing for a snorkeling trip to Hanauma Bay, it is important to remember to bring the right gear. Essential items include a snorkel mask, fins, and snorkel tube. A wetsuit or rash guard may also be necessary depending on the water temperature. Sun protection such as reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses are also recommended when spending time outdoors in Hawaii. Additionally, bring a waterproof camera to capture images of the amazing marine life found beneath the waves! Finally, snorkelers should consider bringing an underwater flashlight to explore deeper crevices and get a better view of marine creatures hiding in darker areas.

Traveler’s Tip: You can book your snorkeling gear rental along with round-trip transportation from Waikiki. This will save you time and energy so that you can focus on snorkeling and enjoy stress-free travel.

Where to Find the Best Spots for Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay

With a barrier reef protecting nearly the entirety of the beach, there are many spots to explore. For snorkeling beginners, we recommend staying close to the shore and reef where the water is calm and shallow (about 1-2 meters). Keep in mind that certain areas may only be accessible during high tide and calm waves, but the breathtaking sights are worth the wait.

For those without strong swimming skills, it’s best to steer clear of two water channels that exit the beach area to the larger bay. These channels are located to the right of the beach’s center and on the far left side as you look out from the beach. They can have strong currents, so it’s wise to avoid them unless you’re a very confident swimmer or the waters are calm. Most snorkelers stick to the protected shallow waters behind the reef, making it a safe spot to explore. Discover green turtles by swimming further out to the deeper waters (around 6 meters deep). More experienced swimmers can easily explore these depths and witness the captivating marine life.


There are two risky spots for ocean lovers to stay away from on your next visit:

Toilet Bowl

As its name suggests, relies on the ocean tides to fill and drain a bowl-like formation through an underground tunnel. While it used to be a popular attraction, it was closed in the early 2000s due to safety concerns and injuries from sharp rocks.

Witches Brew

This small peninsula and cove can be treacherous with rough waves and strong currents. Stay safe and steer clear of this area during your visit.

Common Marine Life Found While Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is home to a vast variety of marine life, making it one of the best places for snorkeling. From coral reefs to sea turtles and colorful fish, visitors will get to see many fascinating creatures while snorkeling in the bay. Commonly seen fish include butterfly fish, triggerfish, damselfish, angelfish, wrasses, and surgeonfish. In addition, you may also spot large schools of octopuses and eels swimming around the corals. Keep your eyes open for seahorses, starfish, sea urchins, and green sea turtles. Additionally, since Hanauma Bay is a protected area there are strict regulations that must be followed when visiting so make sure to take all precautions necessary when venturing into the water.

Man snorkeling with turtle

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Tours

If you’re seeking a hassle-free snorkeling experience, a tour of Hanauma Bay is ideal. It typically involves hotel pick-up, snorkeling gear rental, safety instructions, and guided experience. A tour is a great option for those looking to avoid the hassle of parking, ticket reservations through the online system, and transportation.

Wide View of Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Tour from Waikiki with Transportation & Gear Rental

From USD 53.39

Aerial View of Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay Beginner Snorkel Tour with Expert Guide & Waikiki Transportation

From USD 90.00


Rules and Safety Regulations for Snorkelers

Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay is a popular activity for visitors and locals alike. As such, there are some rules and regulations that must be followed when snorkeling here to ensure the safety of both swimmers and the marine life in the bay.

  • To enter Hanauma Bay, all visitors are required to watch a reef safety orientation video.
  • There is a code of conduct that must be observed while in the park which includes not touching or harassing any marine life, not feeding fish, and staying within designated areas.
  • It is important to use reef-safe sunscreen to protect marine life.
  • When snorkeling, it is essential to swim with caution around coral reefs to prevent damaging them. Reefs can easily be damaged by contact with fins or hands, so it’s important to observe from a distance and avoid touching them.
  • No live seafood may be taken from the bay as this has been prohibited since 1967 as a way of preserving local wildlife populations.
  • All snorkelers should respect other people’s space while in Hanauma Bay and refrain from any disruptive behavior such as excessive noise or swimming near others without permission.
  • Visitors should stay aware of their surroundings while swimming and follow all signage posted around the park for further information on safety measures and regulations.

Protecting the Reefs while Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

One of the best ways to protect the reef is to stay on designated trails and avoid stepping on or touching any coral. Always use fins instead of hands or feet to move around to prevent accidental contact with the fragile reef environment. Make sure that you have adequate buoyancy control and maintain a safe distance from the reefs and marine life. Most importantly, use reef-safe sunscreen. These sunscreens have chemicals that aren’t harmful to marine life. By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that Hanauma Bay continues to be a beautiful and healthy ecosystem for years to come.

Snorkeling Hours And Pricing

You can easily book online up to two days in advance starting at 7 am (Hawaiian time). While walk-ins without a reservation are possible, please be aware that space is extremely limited. If you’re planning a visit to Hanauma Bay, here is the schedule you need to know:

  • Open days are from Wednesday to Sunday
  • Operating hours are between 6:45 am and 4:00pm
  • Entry is allowed only between 6:45 am and 1:30pm
  • A short orientation video is mandatory before entry
  • No entry is allowed after 1:30 pm
  • The beach must be cleared by 3:30 pm, followed by the park exit by 4:00 pm
  • Hanauma Bay is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays to give the coral reef and marine life a break from visitors.

Discover all the amazing wonders of Hanauma Bay for just $25 per adult. Free entry is offered for children aged 12 and under, residents, and active U.S. military and their dependents (just show proper ID). If you’re a resident without a reservation, you can still explore the park for free between 6:45 and 9:00 am (ID required).

Hanauma Bay Reservation

To gain access to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, reservations are mandatory. You can reserve a spot two days before your desired visit, using the Department of Parks and Recreation website. Keep in mind, only 1000 reservations are available each day, and spots fill up swiftly. To secure your place, ensure that you are prepared to make your reservation at 7 a.m. local time. Typically, all spots are claimed within 5 to 10 minutes.

Tips on How to Enjoy the Best Snorkeling Experience

Hanauma Bay is a popular destination for snorkelers of all ages and abilities. To ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable time, here are some tips to make your experience even better:

  • Wear a wetsuit or rash guard – It’s always a good idea to wear a protective layer when snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, especially if you plan on spending several hours in the water. Wearing a wetsuit or rash guard will protect your skin from sunburn and other irritations caused by saltwater and sand.
  • Invest in quality snorkeling gear – Although it may seem like an unnecessary expense, having good quality snorkeling gear can save you time and energy underwater. Additionally, carrying your mask instead of renting one can help minimize the risk of eye irritation due to bacteria buildup from multiple users.
  • Research the local marine life – Before jumping into the water, take some time to read up on the different species of fish and coral found at Hanauma Bay. Knowing what kinds of animals you might encounter and how best to interact with them can help make for an even more memorable experience.
  • Go with friends or family – Even if you plan on exploring independently, it’s always helpful (and safer!) to go with someone who knows the area well. That way, if something unexpected happens while out swimming, there’s another person there who can help out or call for help if needed.

How to Get To Hanauma Bay

Located on the southeastern side of the Island, Hanauma Bay sits about 11 miles east of Honolulu. Getting there is a breeze with a 20-25 minute drive from Waikiki down the H1 Highway, which turns into the Kalanianaole Highway. Arriving before 9 a.m. or after 1 p.m. is recommended to avoid peak times.

Taxis from Waikīkī cost around $40 each way. You can opt to drive if you own a car. However, parking can be a bit of a challenge as the lot only has 300 spaces that are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once the lot is full, security will prevent additional vehicles from entering. Parking costs $3.00 per vehicle and $1.00 for residents.

Unfortunately, public transportation to the bay is suspended. Alternatively, the Line 1 bus stops at Koko Marina shopping center, about a mile away from Hanauma Bay. The Line 1 bus one-way fare is $2.75, or you can purchase a one-day pass for $5.50. If you’re interested in snorkel tours, licensed motor vehicle carriers are welcome once again at the commercial lot from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.