We recently did a trek to the Santa Ana volcano in El Salvador. Looking down on the volcano’s crater, we saw a gorgeous shade of blue water. This natural beauty reminded me of our days in the island of O’ahu, Hawaii. One of the highlights of our trip was snorkelling in a natural pool formed in a volcanic crater – Hanauma Bay.

Tens of thousands of years ago, Hanauma Bay was formed from a volcanic crater on the sea floor which was eventually filled with ocean water that created a circular bay. At present, this natural wonder is home to different varieties of marine life and coral formations which makes it a popular snorkelling spot for tourists in O’ahu.

Backpacking Oahu Hawaii - Hanauma Bay - View

First Impressions of Hanauma Bay

Don’t miss Hanauma Bay. It’s the best place for snorkelling. This was the tip my friend, Madel shared with me when I told her I was planning a trip to O’ahu. She spent some time in Hawaii before so it was good to get some advice on good places to see. I hadn’t seen photos of Hanauma Bay before so imagine my surprise when I saw the circular bay for the first time. I was in awe. Wow. Look at that reef. From the view point close to the car park, one can vividly see the coral reef formation and the clear blue water. I couldn’t wait to get in the water! Not so fast. Prior to entering the Hanuma Bay Natural Preserve, all first-time visitors are required to watch a 10 minute video on marine life in Hanauma Bay, snorkelling safely and reef protection.

Backpacking Oahu Hawaii - Hanauma Bay - Tourist Couple

Backpacking Oahu Hawaii - Hanauma Bay - Crater Beach

Snorkelling in Hanauma Bay

Many claim that Hanauma Bay is the best snorkelling spot in O’ahu. Maybe it is. Once you enter the clear blue water, you will be welcomed by diverse species of fish. There are different areas in Hanauma Bay depending on your level of snorkelling expertise. If you go to the right spot, it is even possible to spot sea turtles in this area. I am not a very good swimmer so I didn’t go too far from the shore. Close to the beach, I saw some colourful fish swimming in the rocky coral reef. It was so cool! Jon saw more fish but unfortunately didn’t get any photos.

Backpacking Oahu Hawaii - Hanauma Bay - Snorkelling

Backpacking Oahu Hawaii - Hanauma Bay - Fish Snorkelling

Visiting Hanauma Bay

Due to its popularity, expect to share Hanauma Bay with quite a number of tourists. It’s not so bad though, you can still get plenty of room to yourself for snorkelling, swimming or sun bathing.

We went to Hanauma Bay around 11am. It wasn’t too crowded at this time but it’s always best to visit this attraction early in the morning when there are less people.

Hanauma Bay is close to Waikiki, and from there it’s easy to arrange a tour (but it can be expensive) or drive a rental car. Another option is to visit this place via the public bus (Bus no. 22 – Eastbound) from Waikiki, which costs about $2.50.

Standard entrance fee to Hanauma Bay is $7.50 USD. Take note that it is closed every Tuesday. Lockers and snorkelling gear are also available for rent in the vicinity.

Backpacking Oahu Hawaii - Hanauma Bay - Beach

Have you been to Hanauma Bay in O’ahu? What did you think of the place? Let us know.

About the author

Gia Kristel De Guia

Gia, who currently lives in New Zealand, grew up in Manila, lived in Singapore for three years and travelled the world for nearly 2 years. From watching sunsets to hiking mountains, she loves the outdoors. She enjoys living in big cities but takes pleasure staying in quaint, small towns. An aspiring photographer and budding writer, she is the voice behind Mismatched Passports, a travel blog dedicated to the journey around the world with her New Zealander partner, Jon.

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