Hawaiian Snapshots: Hanauma Bay, Oahu

Any visit to Oahu should include a day at the bay


Hawaii’s favorite snorkel site is also one of the best protected. This wasn’t always the case, and there was a time when the reefs of Hanauma Bay were showing wear and tear from the thousands of visitors who came each day to explore the coral grottoes and swim with colorful tropical fish. Things began to change for the better when the bay was designated as Hawaii’s first Marine Life Conservation District, and later designated as a nature preserve.

Today, first-time visitors are presented with a short orientation program at the reserve’s visitor’s center, which explains the proper way to enjoy the reefs without causing damage. Through education and controlled access, fish populations and corals have rebounded, and the waters are home to more than 400 species of fish, including numerous varieties of brightly colored parrotfish. The bay is also a nursery for sea turtles. Hanauma is just a short drive from Honolulu, and it’s best to arrive early if you want to stake out a prime bit of real estate on the beach.