Hawaii Vacation: Snorkeling Hanauma Bay

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Day 4: Hanauma Bay

Day 4 began as a lazy Saturday. Mom was itching to go to the swap meet to souvenir shop, while the rest of us were in the mood to do anything other than shop. Normally, I’d be all about putting my shopping hat on and storming Aloha Stadium with money to spend, but having experienced the swap meet before, I was in the mood to do something we’d never done before.

That’s when Auntie Lou saved the day and let Mikey and I borrow her car for the day. Dad ended up taking one for the team and accompanied mom to the swap meet, where she practically bought out the whole stadium. (Kidding, of course. But you should’ve seen how major their souvenir bag was on the flight home.)

With keys in hand and all our beach gear in the trunk, Mikey and I headed east to Hanauma Bay, a nature preserve and excellent snorkeling destination, located about 10 miles east of Waikiki.

By the time we got to Hanauma Bay, it was close to 3:00 — risky, considering that most people try to get there first thing in the morning. The parking lot fills up quickly, and once all the spots are taken, the staff closes off the parking lot completely. And it isn’t one of those situations where you can park on the side of the road and walk in. You’re pretty much out of luck if the closed sign is up. Fortunately, a staff member was removing the closed sign just as we were pulling in. We lucked out. In fact, our decision to go late in the day actually worked to our advantage. By 3:00, most people were clearing out for the day. That left more shady spots for us to set up shop — and more open water for us to explore.

Once we purchased our tickets ($7.50 per person), we stood in an outdoor waiting area before we were led into an air-conditioned theater. We watched a quick video (mandatory for all Hanauma Bay visitors) that detailed the history of the bay as well as the rules to abide by. The takeaway? Hanauma Bay is a fragile marine ecosystem. Respect the wildlife.

From there, Mikey and I made our way down the large sloping hill to the beach area to start our snorkeling adventure.

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Letting his sunscreen sink in underneath a shady tree

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Swimmers and snorkelers enjoying a day at the bay

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Blowing in the breeze

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Welcome to paradise

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Pigeon in paradise

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Happiest when my toes are in the sand

Hanauma Bay is home to 400 different species of fish. There were big ones, small ones, striped ones, spotted ones, bright ones, dark ones, you name it. To be specific, some of the species we saw were Triggerfish, Butterfly Fish and Tang. Makes me wish I had an underwater camera to share just how pretty they all were.

After a couple hours of snorkeling, the beach area started to quiet down. It really was the perfect time to be there.

We eventually decided to make our way home but were tasked with climbing the uphill slope to get back to the parking lot. To make it easy on myself, I made it a point to stop and take pictures along the way. On our way up, we spotted a huge school of fish, visible from our spot towards the top of the sloping walkway. We even spotted a couple sea turtles! So we camped out for probably 20-30 minutes just trying to get a good shot of our turtle friend.

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Giant school of fish

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Hello there, turtle.

The view of Hanauma Bay from above is probably the best way to gawk at it. It is one amazing piece of earth, and I’m glad we got to experience it on a beautiful day without the overwhelming crowds it’s known for. I’m sure one day we’ll be back for more of what we like to call the Hanaumana Phenomena. Someone oughta hashtag that.

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