With all the discussion this week about increased visitor fees, it didn’t take long for one iconic Hawaii destination to test out visitor rate hikes. It all starts July 1, when the visitor entry fee at Hanauma Bay will go from $12 to $25 per person or more than double the current charge.
Admission is free for residents, children under two, and active military. The City of Honolulu says that the money raised will go directly to management and improvement at Hanauma Bay.
Recently Hanauma Bay launched its online reservation to control admission and to protect the park. About 75% of the admissions are by advance reservation, with the remainder reserved for last-minute visitors.
What’s your take on Hanauma Bay increasing visitor rates?
CoconutWilly from Honolulu wrote to us saying, “Oahu just implemented a $25 fee for Hanauma Bay. I have been in the hospitality industry here in Hawaii for 35 years. I disagree with price gouging the tourists to balance the budget. I always put myself in the other person’s shoes. A family of 4 needs to fork over another $100 to go to Hanauma? Forget it! HTA, your tactics to limit visitors are working!”
While $25 per person may not seem like a dramatic increase, it is more than double the prior rate. And, it comes at a time when visitor fees are under extreme scrutiny.
Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation’s View.
Honolulu DPR spokesperson Nate Serota said that “all the money that’s made from the entrance fees goes back into the maintenance, the education, the conservation efforts. So we need to maintain that source of funding in order to keep it the thriving attraction, not just for recreational enjoyment, but for conservation and to make it such a beautiful place in perpetuity.”
The city said that it is “looking at different ways to have revenue come in and one of the big things with Hanauma Bay is it’s free for locals and we charge the non-local residents to enter the bay.” The city plans to use this “visitors pay” but “locals do not” concept at other facilities soon.
Since Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve reopened post-Covid, earlier this year, the rules have been changing. First, the county banned walk-in visitors due to a safety concern along the Kalanianaole Highway. Thereafter, the iconic bay again began allowing walk-in entry. The most recent change was an online reservation system.
“Providing a safe & enjoyable experience for bay visitors, while keeping the preserve’s conservation and fiscal sustainability objectives in mind, continues to be our ultimate goals…The ticketing system and increased access to the preserve’s parking lot proved to be the solutions we needed. ” –DPR Director-Designate Laura H. Thielen.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve was closed for 9 months due to COVID.
Hanauma is the spectacular cove located inside a volcanic crater that is packed with fish and is just a 25-minute drive from Waikiki Beach. It is always one of the state’s primary snorkeling attractions for both visitors and residents. In the past, throngs came there to see the beauty both above and below the water that appeared to outnumber the marine creatures.
Hanauma is the first Marine Life Conservation District in Hawaii and is considered one of Hawaii’s most breathtaking natural resources. Now you can be part of preserving and protecting one of the state’s rarest locations. The bay features both a deep outer reef and a shallow inner reef for protection, which results in calm, sparkling-clear waters.
Tip: Be aware that there is an unofficial website that looks official which is hanaumabaystatepark.com. We won’t link to that one. Here is the official state website for Hanauma Bay.
Visitors and locals previously imperiled Hanauma Bay.
Before COVID, Hanauma Bay saw up to 6,000 visitors per day, but will now be limited to 720 per day. Prior to the first efforts to limit visitors, it saw many times more. After it was closed due to COVID in March, the bay started to heal following decades of abuse. Water quality and clarity improved without the visitors, their sunscreen, and the bread and other food they fed the fish.
The marine ecosystem and its plethora of colorful coral and fish have since clearly begun to restore. Endangered species found there including sea turtles and monk seals have been seen in greater numbers.
That is the not-for-profit organization that closely monitors everything happening within the bay. Their president, Lisa Bishop, said that water visibility had improved 64% since before the COVID shutdown. She also noted that was the first time in four decades that dangerous sunscreen chemicals have not been in the water.
Since the closure, larger species and an abundance of tropical fish have returned making it worth the wait to enter.
Pristine ecosystems in recovery
More than a decade ago, new efforts got underway to restore Hanauma Bay. Due to long-term abuse and overuse, with millions of annual visitors, 30 years ago Honolulu unveiled a plan to restore the bay by implementing restrictions including visitor counts, and the creation of educational programs. Then in 2002, the Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center opened. It is there that visitors watch a short video supporting efforts to restore this special place when we visit. Further back, in 1967, Hawaii first designated the 100 acre Marine Life Conservation District.
New opening hours and reservation system.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is now open from Wednesday through Sunday. Entrance is permitted from 8am to 2pm, and the preserve closes at 4 pm. Check online for changes or call them at (808) 768-6861.
Tickets must be reserved in advance for the mandatory 9-minute orientation video. Reservations can be made for up to 10 people – 5 Adults and/or 5 kids.
Visit the Honolulu Parks & Recreation website for reservations.
Tickets for the mandatory 9-minute orientation video can be reserved starting at 7:00 am (HST) daily.
Walk-ins without a reservation are allowed, but limited seats.
Only 1000 guests will be allowed each day / 30 guests every 10 min.
Parking is first come first served – even if you have a reservation.
The education center will remain closed at this time.
Hanauma Bay is open Wednesday through Sunday from 6:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Visitors must leave by 4:00 pm).
All face mask mandates must be followed within Hanauma Bay.
Updated entrance and parking fees.
The new cost of admissions starting July 1 is $25 per person for those 13 years and above, while it is free for those up to age 12. Hawaii residents are offered free admission with proper identification. Parking is $3 for visitors and $1 for residents.
There are no commercial activities at Hanauma Bay, which means that commercial vehicles, taxis, and tour groups cannot enter.
Bring your own equipment or rent there.
The rental concession for fins and mask has reopened. The fee is $20 per day per set. Lockers are also available.
Bathrooms, showers, and the snack bar are now open.
These facilities remain operational.
Sunscreen at Hanauma Bay.
Hawaii has banned sunscreens deemed unsafe. There is a prohibition on the sale and distribution of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. These are chemicals that are found in thousands of sunscreens. This new law became effective on January 1, 2021.
“Our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the earth can have lasting impacts…. This new law is just one step toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawaii’s coral reefs.” — Governor David Ige.