Hanauma Bay Snorkeling in Oahu Hawaii

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling – A Complete Visitor Guide

Are you thinking about going on a Hanauma Bay snorkeling adventure?  Need a little advice on what to expect and how to plan for a Hanauma Bay snorkeling trip? 

Perfect! You are in the right spot.

In this post, we are going to cover all the basics about snorkeling at Hanauma Bay.  We will look at all the information you need to plan a day trip.  

Hanauma Bay is gorgeous and is worth putting on your Hawaii itinerary!  The water is warm and these pictures do not have any filters!  It really is that blue! Snorkeling in Oahu may be the highlight of your entire trip!

Let's plan a Hanauma Bay snorkeling adventure! 

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Hanauma Bay Hawaii

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

What is Hanauma Bay? Well, in the Hawaiian language hana means bay and uma means curved, so basically Hanauma Bay is curved bay.  It is one of the most beautiful bays on Oahu.

Hanauma Bay Snorkel Destination

Hanauma Bay snorkeling is one of the most popular tourist destinations on Oahu.  It was formed from a volcanic crater and now is the perfect location for viewing sea life.

Hanauma Bay is now a nature preserve park that has over 400 species of fish living within the coral reef just below the surface of the water.  You will also see green sea turtles in this area.

Hanauma Bay has over 3000 visitors every day which is about 1 million visitors every year.

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay is the best place to snorkel in Oahu! Let's learn more about it! 

Plan your Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Trip

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

Are you still trying to decide if you should snorkel at Hanauma Bay? Let's answer some basic questions so you can feel comfortable and make a good decision. 

What is the Best Time to go to Hanauma Bay?

If you want to avoid crowds get your reservation early in the morning or in the early afternoon.  The most popular times are between 9;00 am and 12:30 pm.

Major Tourist Attraction – How Crowded is Hanauma Bay?

I know what you are thinking (if you are like me),  Hanauma Bay is extremely popular and it will be crowded…..but I am here to tell you that I didn't feel that way at all! Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay is a great experience!

There is enough space to spread out and enjoy what is above and beneath the water. 

Do I Need to Be a Good Swimmer to Snorkel at Hanauma Bay?

Yes and No.  If the tide is low you shouldn't have a problem.  However, as the tide comes in there are some strong currents.  There are lifeguards on duty.  They mark where the current is strong with cones and warn to stay out of those areas. Just be smart! 

Hanauma Bay Snorkel Rental

One week in Oahu - snorkel

Can I Rent Snorkel Gear at Hanauma Bay?

Taking the shuttle and getting the equipment together is about the same price as driving and having to rent equipment.  Meaning it is about $20 to rent equipment.  If you are nearsighted they do offer masks with prescription lenses.  That might be worth it right there!

Life vest and floaties are not available to rent on site but you can rent them from the shuttle provider.

Can I Bring My Own Snorkel Gear?

Yes, you can bring your own equipment. Personally, I like having my own equipment. I purchased a snorkel set on Amazon before I went on my first trip to Hawaii and used it almost every day of our trip. I highly recommend purchasing it ahead of time. 

How Much Time Should I Spend Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay?

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

Are you wondering how much time you should spend snorkeling at Hanauma Bay?  This is a great question. 

What I found is that snorkeling is hard work.  Ultimately, we swam and swam and explored the reef and become tired.  If you take lots of breaks and relax on the beach you could spend all day here.  I would probably allow about 3-4 hours to fully enjoy the area.

Shuttle to Hanauma Bay Snorkeling 

If you are taking the shuttle they will have a specific return time about 4 hours from the time they drop you off.  This is a great option if you do not have a car but does limit your time at Hanauma Bay.

Directions to Hanauma Bay

Snorkeling Hanauma Bay in Oahu Hawaii

Hanauma Bay by Car

If you are driving from Waikiki it will take between 20-40 minutes depending on traffic. It is 10.7 miles away from Waikiki.

We did not experience any problems with driving and thought it was a great option.

Hanauma Bay Shuttle

If you did not rent a car and still want to experience Hanauma Bay snorkeling, there are many shuttle services from Waikiki.  The price range for the transportation shuttle ranges from $17 -$25.

For that price, you will receive round-trip transportation as well as professional snorkeling gear to use.  A separate $7.50 entrance fee is not included in that price.

Are Reservations for Hanauma Bay Shuttle Required?

The answer is YES!  If you are planning to use this service call ahead and arrange your times.  There are specific pick-up times throughout the day.

What are the Shuttle Times for Hanauma Bay?

Pick up and return times are as follows:

7:15 am – 11:45 am

8:45 am -1:15 pm

10:15 am – 2:45 pm

Parking at Hanauma Bay

Parking at Hanauma Bay

Parking at Hanauma Bay was pretty easy.  One piece of advice we read was to get there early as the parking lot fills up fast. Taking it easy is part of why we go to Hawaii and we did not get there too early.

Finding a spot was not a problem! There were still quite a few available by the time we got there.  We went at a very busy time of year and observed that even when we left there were spots available. But just be aware that there are only 300 available spots.

Parking Fee

The parking fee is $3.  Parking fee is refundable if you are in the lot for less than 15 minutes.  Parking spots are very close to the entrance.

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Hours and Admission

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling rentals

Admission Price for Hanauma Bay

Admission is $25 per person. Children 12 years and younger, Hawaii residents, and active US military (with ID) are free.  The $25 does not include snorkel gear.

One thing you might want to consider is the Go Oahu Card, which will get you into Hanauma Bay and many more Hawaii attractions.

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Hours

Hours of operation are 6:45 am – 4:00 pm daily in the summer months.  In the winter it closes at 4:00 pm.  Mondays and Tuesdays are not open.

Are Lockers Available at Hanauma Bay?

Yes, there are two sizes of lockers available to rent.  For a smaller locker, the price is $10. A larger locker is priced at $12.  (Double-check these prices, with inflation they are probably higher)

A smaller locker will hold a cell phone, wallet, and keys.  The larger locker will hold a backpack.

Make A Reservation to Snorkel at Hanauma Bay

Snorkeling at Hanuma

As of April 2021, a reservation is required.   You will need to reserve your time and pay in advance. This reservation will allow you to watch the orientation video.  

Instructional Video

Once you arrive at Hanauma Bay, you are guided to an area to wait for a mandatory instructional video.  This video tells the history of Hanauma Bay and the nature of the natural preserve.

I really enjoyed the video and learned many things.   Most importantly, I learned that you can not step on the coral reef!   The fish depend on the coral reef to survive and we do not want to damage it.

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Educational Center

Hanauma Bay educational center

Hanauma Bay has an educational center where you can observe what types of animal life are present in the bay.

The main goal is to preserve animal life and learn about all the ways to keep the environment safe.

It also has a 12 minute video that is interesting and informative.

Get Ready for Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

hanauma Bay Snorkeling

It is so hard to know what to pack for Hawaii…but for Hanauma Bay snorkeling a beach bag filled with the following items is just want you need. 

What Do I Need to Bring to Hanauma Bay?

Here is your checklist! If you need any of the following items, you can click on the links below and order them on Amazon. 

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

Beach View of Hanauma Bay

Getting To and From the Hanauma Bay Beach Cove

I wanted to warn you it is a steep 10-minute walk down to the bay from the visitor center.

Fortunately, we made some friends as we watched the video and didn't mind the walk as we were chatting.  On the other side walking up the hill was intense.  It was a really steep climb!

Tram Service

If you prefer not to walk a tram service is available to take you down.  This is included in the entrance fees you paid. I would consider this for the hike up!

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay

Once you walk down the steep hill it is time to snorkel.  Hanauma bay beach is a great place to relax and get your gear on.

One thing to be aware of is that the water is very shallow during low tide.  The coral extends pretty far out but the depth of the cove remains fairly shallow even as you swim farther out.  It was really easy to get scratched and cut. 

Overall, even with the shallow water, I would say snorkeling at Hanauma Bay is one of the best Oahu snorkeling bay areas on the island.  It is absolutely gorgeous! 

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling – Sea Life

The sea life is amazing.  There are so many beautiful fish to see! You will even get to see the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, which is the state fish.  Yellowfish, trumpet fish, and angelfish are also swimming throughout the cove.


There are lifeguards on duty but I imagine that would be a hard job as everyone is sticking their face in the water!

Hanauma Beach Hawaii

Many people were relaxing on the Hanauma beach.  In my mind, I had only thought of Hanauma Bay as a place to snorkel not relax and hang out. I was wrong so many people were enjoying the beach.


Hanauma Bay Tips for Snorkeling

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling rental gear

I have a few tips for snorkeling for first-timers. 

Hanauma Bay Tip Number 1

Before you trip to Hawaii, practice using your gear.  For most adults, it shouldn't be too hard to learn to snorkel.  Kids find using the equipment a lot harder.  Practice makes perfect! 

Hanauma Bay Tip Number 2

Arrive early for your Hanauma Bay snorkeling adventure.  You will be able to get a good parking spot and get in the water quickly.  We found that the early we snorkeled in Hawaii the more sea life we saw.  

Hanauma Bay Tip Number 3

When you put your gear on particularly your fins. Sit close to the water and as you enter the ocean walk backward. It is so much easier. 

Is There Anywhere to Eat at Hanauma Bay?

Hanauma Bay Snack Bar

Yes, a snack bar is located on the upper level across from the cashier.  They have bacon cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chili with rice, pulled pork sandwiches, and french fries.

They also have some healthier options such as turkey wraps, teriyaki chicken, and garden salads.  There are also lots of snack and drink options available. meals are under $12.00.

I didn't get a chance to try it out. so, I'm not sure what the quality of food is.   The reviews are really good.

Are you Ready for a Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Adventure?

Snorkel at Hanauma Bay

Hopefully, all of your questions were answered and you feel ready to go and have some fun! Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay is really a must-do in Oahu! I hope you have a great time!  Be sure to check out my One Week In Oahu Hawaii itinerary.

Comment below if you have any experiences snorkeling in Hawaii and what your favorite spots have been!

Facebook Group

Also, if you have more questions join our Travel Community on Facebook.  We love to answer questions and share travel deals with you!

Have Fun in Hawaii

Halona Blowhole Look - Things to do in Oahu with kids

Have you planned your Hawaii trip yet?  If you need some ideas I have you covered.

We split our trip between Oahu and had one day in MauiWe had some fun experiences driving in Maui to see a really cool blowhole.  Maui was so gorgeous we wish we had more time to explore it.

We spent most of our time on Oahu. We focused on hiking in Oahu and snorkeling in Oahu but also did most of the touristy stuff as well.  We had so much fun and I know you will too!

Hawaii Adventures

If you need ideas for things to do on Oahu with kids  I highly recommend visiting Pearl Harbor and then heading to the North Shore and going on a Jurassic Adventure Tour or getting a Dole Whip at the Dole Pineapple PlantationYou could also visit the Polynesian Cultural Center.

You can also check out the best family resorts on Oahu which includes Disney's Aulani Resort.

If you need guidance on what to pack for Hawaii, I share all my tips in my post. 

Also, do not forget to get your Hawaii Souvenirs

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    1. You can dive but it’s a little farther out. The water in this area is really shallow. But they do have diving tours from Hanauma Bay.

  1. Great pics it’s been a while since I have been snorkeling! I loved snuba, that’s what we did when we went to Oahu!

  2. I’ve always dreamed of going here. My parents went decades ago, and my mom bought a picture that still hangs in their house.

  3. We have snorkeled before on Maui but I will for sure be adding this to our Oahu visit! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  4. I’ve never been to Hawaii but it is definitely on my bucket list. Was this a trip with just you or your husband or did your kids come along? I’m just wondering how kid-friendly it is. I’m assuming it is since it says 12 and under free? Thanks for such an informative post. Hope to visit someday!

    1. It was just my husband and I that went on this trip. Hanauma bay would be good for older kids. It would be hard if you are not a strong swimmer. So little kids probably couldn’t go to far out. There is a beach for them to play on so that would be good for kids. I personally think I would be worried because of the amount of people and keeping track of my little ones.

  5. We love to snorkel. This looks like another great spot to add to our list of must go to places just for snorkeling.

  6. I would love to do this one day! It looks like an amazing experience. Thank you for providing so much valuable information.

  7. What an amazing place to visit! I have snorkeled in many places around the world and this looks like a beautiful place to go!

  8. This beach is so beautiful! ? After dealing with the parking meters in Savannah, GA for a few years, I think I got a bit over-excited over that $1 parking annoucement!

  9. This beach is so beautiful! ? After dealing with the parking meters in Savannah, GA for a few years, I think I got a bit over-excited over that $1 parking announcement!

  10. As I sit here writing this note, the snow is piling up outside and a forecast of double digits below zero in a couple days. Thank you for taking me to a warm, inviting spot for a bit to enjoy one of my all time favorite things to do…snorkel!!

  11. Another great review! Love the pictures. It looks so amazing there. I hope to get to Hawaii one day. You would be an awesome travel guide!!

  12. It was on my list when I was on Oahu, unfortunately it was really storm that whole week, zero visibility and choppy waters. So for obvious reasons I did not end up going…if I ever get back there (too many other places to visit), I’ll attempt to go again!

  13. Oh my goodness! My husband and I went snorkeling here 30 years ago. It is unbelievably beautiful and has great snorkeling. I’d love to return and see it again. These are great tips.

  14. I grew up just about 5 minutes away from Hanauma Bay and have watched as its popularity has increased. I am so glad they have started doing those informational videos! It breaks my heart when I see people standing on the reef (at Hanauma and other places without information videos). I always wish they’d show it in the videos on the airplane for everyone coming in to Hawaii to see! Thanks for your great write up!

  15. Great tips! It’s been so long since I have been there…if I ever make it back, this sure seems helpful!

  16. I’ve been there and even did the snorkeling so your post brought back some wonderful memories. It’s a beautiful and amazing place so I’m glad you got to do it…everyone should try it there at least once.

  17. Although we have traveled to 45 states, Hawaii is one we haven’t traveled to yet. The water is always so amazing to me, love your photos. We will have to visit Ohau when we finally do travel there.

    1. I always thought Hawaii is a dream, I will get there one day. I spontaneously booked it and I regret not doing it sooner!

  18. I may not be ready to go snorkeling there, but I certainly am ready to visit! Hawaii has been on my bucket list for YEARS!! The boys would love snorkeling, though!

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