If you’re lucky when you travel, you just might have one of those moments when you realize you’re doing something you would never even consider trying back home.
Case in point: Taking the kids to swim with the fishes at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.
You see, the big explorer isn’t a big fan of the ocean. And the little guy isn’t even 2 years old! So the prospect of heading to Hanauma Bay with the explicit purpose of snorkeling didn’t seem too attractive.
But the hubby assured me that the boogie board with a window we’d bought a few days earlier at Target would allow the kids to float out in the Bay and see fish. What could be cooler than that?
Turns out, not much.
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR NATURE LOVERS
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the most spectacular natural resources in Hawaii. But when I visited some 10+ years ago, there were no policies in place to limit the number of visitors to the area or to protect the wildlife. In fact, it was common practice at that time to feed the fish, and no one thought twice about stepping all over the coral reef.
Recognizing the damage done by years of neglect and abuse by visitors, the City and County of Honolulu laid out a plan some years ago to restore Hanauma to a much more pristine condition.
The result is more controlled oversight of the Bay. All visitors must now watch a 10-minute video educating them about the marine life in the Bay and their role in protecting it. This is where you’ll learn the five rules of the Bay:
- Stand only on sand.
- Observe but don’t touch the reef.
- Watch the fish but don’t feed them.
- Do not litter.
- Use the restroom before you swim.
I am happy to report that these days Hanauma is a fabulously beautiful beach with a calm inner reef and tame tropical fish – making it an ideal place for kids to swim with the fishes. (And for parents, the outer reef has coral gardens, green sea turtles and more amazing reef fish.)
WHAT WE LIKED
Our goal was to get both kids out there on our handy boogie board with a window so they could take a look at some fish. And although it was a little cold and windy at first, they both eventually ventured into the water with dad.
What’s great is that because this is a bay, the water is calm and even the most fearful kids don’t have to worry about waves. You don’t have to go too far out to see the fish, either. Plus, the water is so shallow that dad was only about waist high in water while pushing the little guys around.
The big explorer was so thrilled with his “snorkeling” adventure that he couldn’t stop gushing to our friends about all the types of fish he saw.
My hubby opted to play tour guide with both of our explorers, plus our friends’ two kids. The boogie board with a window was the big hit of the day.
What’s great about Hanauma is that it’s got something for even the littlest of adventurers. You may remember from previous posts that the little explorer is somewhat of a water enthusiast (to put it mildly!). Hanauma Bay was his own little slice of heaven. When he wasn’t looking at fish with dad, he was either floating in the water with me or playing in the sand. Of course, we had to dig a hole to keep the water in, which made for wonderful splashing fun.
The little guy also took much pleasure in heaping gobs of wet sand back out into the water.
We had so much fun taking turns looking at all the cool fish, playing in the sand and sitting at the water’s edge, that before we knew it, several hours had gone by. Which is what makes Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve such a special place to play.
- Open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer session, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the winter session
- Closed every Tuesday, plus Christmas and New Year’s day
- Admission is $7.50 for adults, kids 12 and under are free
- Parking is $1
- A theater, education area, (great!) gift shop and food concession are available at the upper level of the Bay
- Restrooms, outdoor showers, an information center and snorkeling concession are located in the lower Bay area (beachside)
- Lifeguards are on duty
- No shaded areas available on the beach
MY TIPS FOR A GREAT VISIT
- Plan to arrive way earlier than you’d ever want to. This place is extremely popular with tourists and fills up fast. We got there at 7:30 a.m. and scooped up one of about 10 remaining spots in the parking lot.
- Buy a boogie board with a window. Thanks to my friend Michele at Fun Orange County Parks for suggesting that we do this. I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you have young kids. We picked ours up at Target for about $30. Money well spent.
- Bring water shoes to keep little feet protected from the hot sand, rocky ocean floor and sunburn.
- Consider taking the trolley – at least on the way back up from the beach. The hill from the upper Bay to the lower Bay and beach area is quite steep, especially for tired little legs. Pay the small fee and enjoy the ride.
Hanuama Bay Nature Preserve is located at:
7455 Kalaniana’ole Highway
Honolulu, HI 96795