2024 Hanauma Bay Review: Revisiting Iconic Hawaii Nature Preserve

Access to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (HBAY) is different now to reduce crowds and save the environment for future generations to enjoy. We decided to go back recently to see how the changes are going since COVID. While numbers are capped at 1,400 on the days open, down from 3,000 before COVID, it’s still busy but more manageable than before. Their most recent visitor count, published for January 2024, saw 21,127 reserved guests, 10,250 walk-ins, and 2,236 locals. You might be surprised to see that number of walk-in traffic, which we’ll explain below.

As a Hawaii resident, we could go without a reservation or fee. Walk-in traffic for non-residents is very limited, and opens at 6:45 am. Otherwise, you’ll want to reserve two days in advance and pay the $25 per person fee online to guarantee your entrance. Keep in mind that when reservations open at 7 am, they sell out within 5 minutes.

A guard at the entrance will check your reservations and then direct you to the parking lot, where you’ll pay the parking fee with $3 cash or $1 if you are a resident of Hawaii. Another check of your reservation is done as you approach the entry and before you line up for the required video presentation. If you walk in, you’ll be directed to the ticketing window.

As you wait, a docent explains procedures and emphasizes the need to wear reef-protected sunscreen. During the safety video, there are cultural references to the importance of Hanauma Bay to Native Hawaiians and safety instructions for snorkeling. Again, there is more emphasis on reef-protected sunscreen and being careful not to step on the reef and damage the fragile environment. They suggest you stay out of the ocean if you are not a strong swimmer.

You can walk down to Hanauma Bay or ride the shuttle to the beach after the video. We suggest you go on foot to take in the spectacular setting and better understand where you’re snorkeling. Once on the beach, there is hardly any shade, so make sure you have a hat. Restrooms are available, and an information desk and snorkeling gear for rent that you can also reserve before going. Keep in mind that food options are at the entrance. After you have finished snorkeling, you can either hike back up to the entrance or ride the shuttle (most take the shuttle, but we decided to walk).

Hanauma Bay is nestled just a brief 25-minute drive from Waikiki, yet it is a word apart. Renowned for snorkeling, the haven boasts a seriously breathtaking cove formed by volcanic activity, teeming with abundant marine life.

Obtaining a reservation is now imperative for all visitors. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of how to obtain yours and navigate the updated guidelines:

Evolution of HBAY entry fees: Over the years, Hanauma Bay has seen gradual increases in entry fees, reflecting the ever-changing landscape of both Hawaii tourism and its conservation efforts. What began at just $5 per person in 2016 climbed to $12 in 2020. Since then, however, the cost has more than doubled to $25 per person. The City and County of Honolulu say these funds are being directly allocated toward the management and enhancement of Hanauma Bay.

Revised schedule and visitor quotas: Hanauma Bay now operates from Wednesdays through Sundays, accommodating a maximum of 1,400 visitors daily between the hours of 6:45 am to 1:30 pm. All visitors must vacate the premises by 4 pm, with the beach being cleared starting at 3:30 pm. As scheduling is always subject to potential issues, individuals are advised to contact (808) 768-6861 for updates.

Online reservations: Entry to Hanauma Bay is permitted through pre-booked time slots purchased and paid for online. Visitors can reserve slots for up to five adults and five children via the Honolulu Parks & Recreation website, with each reservation priced at $25 per person aged 13 and above, along with a 2.35% online processing fee. Tickets are non-transferable, and all sales are final, with a mandatory presentation of a valid photo ID matching the reservation upon entry. These are carefully checked. The unauthorized use of reservations will result in the cancellation of the visit without a refund.

Advance online reservation process: Reservations can be made up to two days in advance, allowing visitors to select their preferred entry time 48 hours before their intended visit. Reservation slots remain open until filled or until midnight the day preceding the visit.

Compulsory video viewing: Before entering, all visitors must watch an educational video at the Hanauma Bay Theater, irrespective of prior visits and viewings.

Prior to the video, visitors are invited to tour the education center while they wait for a docent-led introduction to Hanauma Bay as well as questions and answers.

After the docent introduction and video, guests can either walk or ride the free shuttle down the hill to the bay.

On arriving at the bay, there are kiosks with information on sealife, and visitors are welcome to ask questions before entering.

Parking rules: Parking fees are collected on-site at a kiosk and are paid in cash. The rate is $3 for visitors and $1 for residents. If you leave within 15 minutes, the fee is refunded.

Transportation considerations: Bus service to the bay no longer operates. However, visitors can still utilize bus services to the Koko Marina shopping center and walk approximately a mile to reach Hanauma Bay.

Equipment options: Visitors can either bring their own snorkeling gear or rent equipment onsite for a fee of $20 per day per set, with locker facilities also available. Be aware that there is a line for rentals, so if you can bring it with you, you’ll be better off.

Provisions for non-online access: Limited walk-in or drive-in access without online reservations is currently permitted, with on-site payment options available. These slots open at 6:45 am and sell out quickly.

Rules for residents and military personnel: Hawaii residents with valid IDs are exempt from reservations during public hours, while military members and their dependents enjoy free entry with military IDs. IDs are checked multiple times.

Additional regulations: Commercial activities, including tours, are strictly prohibited within the premises, and taxis are prohibited from transporting visitors to Hanauma Bay. You can ride The Bus, which will drop you a mile from the entrance.

Concession hours: The gift shop operates from 8 am to 3:30 pm, the food concession from 8:30 am to 2 pm, and the snorkel gear shop from 7 am to 3 pm.

These changes reflect a concerted effort to balance visitor enjoyment with vigorous preservation of Hanauma Bay’s natural splendor, ensuring its sustainability for future generations to enjoy.

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18 thoughts on “2024 Hanauma Bay Review: Revisiting Iconic Hawaii Nature Preserve”

  1. Recall going to Hanauma Bay during my time on Oahu (1979 to 1981) and enjoying being able to scuba, or snorkel with friends. Hanauma Bay was beautiful back then, and hopefully is still very much so today. Personally do not agree to the high fees charged to visit such a beautiful environment, though fully agree with the need to protect and save this small environment for future generations. Such is necessary now days with so many choosing to ignore proper care and respect for all natural wonders. Mahalo for sharing this update.

  2. Thanks for this article about Hanauma Bay…question reqarding those with disabilities: Are those with physical limitations as far as walking is concerned – can these individuals receive any assistance getting
    to the Bay after viewing the educational film, etc?

    Mahalo for your reply,

    1
    1. Hi Jeanne

      You can shuttle from right outside the movie theater down to the beach and back. Beyond that we didn’t see anything like sand wheelchairs.

      Aloha.

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