Current conditions at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Beach & Nearshore
Call 808-396-4229 for recorded message with all current fees, times, conditions.
- $1 per car parking fee - large, paved parking lot - arrive early as the lot fills quickly and lines may be long.
- $7.50 per person admission fee for 13 year old or older
- Free for children under 13 years and for Hawaii residents and military stationed in Hawaii with proper ID
- Optional shuttle bus available to bring visitors up and down the hill to the beach. - currently fee is $1 per person each way. Handicap accessible.
This is a Marine Life Conservation Area: no pets allowed; no alcoholic beverages; no fishing or feeding the fish; do not remove, harass, or harm any marine life.
More information about the park is available on the Hanauma Bay State Park website.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is located on the Oahu South Shore.
Queen Kaahumanu came by canoe and went to Hanauma where Paki was the konohiki over the realms of the [legendary] chiefesses Ihiihilauakea and Kauanonoula. These were the hula dancers, Mrs. Alapai, Mr. Hewahewa, and Mr. Ahukai, who gathered for the love of and to entertain royalty. The men played the game of uma. One man gripped the hand of the other and pushed to get it down. Women joined in and a whole month was spent there. That was why the place was called Hanauma, a noted place.
Hoku o Hawaii, Hawaiian language newspaper
February 11, 1930.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the most popular snorkeling sites in Hawai’i. A narrow beach about 2,000 feet long lines the bay, a volcanic crater that was breached by the ocean. Amenities include a visitor center that was built on the crater rim above the bay in 2002.
Hanauma means either “handwrestling bay” or “curved bay.” The Hawaiian version of handwrestling, or uma, was performed with two opponents kneeling rather than sitting. Hanauma was a noted playground for O’ahu’s ruling families and this fact, coupled with the horseshoe shape of the bay, gives support to both interpretations of the name.
A shallow fringing reef protects the narrow beach at the head of the bay and keeps the nearshore waters calm during almost all surf conditions. Several large sand pockets within the reef attract most of the swimmers and snorkelers, the largest and most popular of which is the Keyhole. Viewed from the cliffs above, its outline resembles a keyhole.
One of the danger spots in the bay is the Cable Channel, a small channel on the west side of the reef that was dredged in the 1950s to receive a trans-Pacific telephone cable. Strong rip currents may run through this channel and carry swimmers and snorkelers beyond the reef into the outer bay.
The left point of the bay is called Palea, “brushed aside,” and the right point is Pai’olu’olu, “lift gently.” On each side of the bay a wave-cut terrace a few feet above sea level provides pedestrian access to each point. The terrace to Pai’olu’olu Point ends in a rocky cove called the Witches’ Brew. The prevailing trade winds push swells and debris into the cove, a natural catch basin, resulting in the name Witches’ Brew. The terrace on the opposite side of the bay, heading out to Palea Point, ends at an inlet called the Toilet Bowl. At the head of the inlet a small pool is separated from the sea by a natural rock wall. Swells that surge into the inlet cause the water in the pool to rise and fall like the flushing and filling of a toilet bowl.
Hanauma’s historic popularity among Hawaiian royalty was due not only to its beauty and isolation but also to its excellent fishing. The bay is said to have been a favorite fishing grounds of Kamehameha V, and it was a popular dive site well into the twentieth century. Then in 1967, a state law set aside the entire bay as an underwater park and a marine life conservation district (MLDC). The MLCD’s strict regulations prohibiting all consumptive activities have increased the marine life populations, providing excellent viewing opportunities for swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. In 2002, a new visitor center and other facilities were constructed above the bay and behind the beach.