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Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is the premiere snorkeling site on Oahu...if you come early or late in the day. Parking fills up quickly, and once the lot is full, you will be turned away. When you arrive at Hanauma Bay, you will be required to pay an entrance fee, then watch a required safety video. The video emphasizes the importance of treating the reef with respect. In particular, you should never stand on or touch the coral, because it can cut you and cause a bad infection, and because touching the reef kills and destroys it. After you view the video, your name is added to a list of those approved to visit the bay. Upon leaving the visitors' center, you can descend the steep trail to Hanauma Bay itself by walking or riding a low-cost shuttle. At the bottom, excellent cold-water showers and changing areas are available for your use. Lockers and snorkeling equipment are also available for a fee.

Tips for Snorkeling Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is probably the best place in Hawaii to see a variety of species in one convenient location. It is not unusual to see 50 distinct fish species in several hours of snorkeling. If you arrive early in the morning, you may even see sea turtles feeding on algae in relatively shallow water (5-7 feet). There is a large open area near the center of the beach where the reef makes a sort of U facing the shore. This area is known as the "keyhole" of Hanauma Bay, and is a great place to snorkel and see fish without going into the rougher water outside the reef.

In general, watch where other people are snorkeling, and visit those areas to see outstanding fish. Know your limitations, however, and stay well within them. Don't swim so far into the reef that you can't get back out again. Water conditions in Hanauma Bay can be dangerous, especially outside the reef, but usually it is safe to swim inside the reef. Always snorkel with a friend and follow all posted safety precautions.

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