Haunama Bay, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, United States of America, Travel Guide, Travel Destinations, Travel Places, Diving Spot, Nature Preserve, Top Attraction Hawaii, Beach Park, Ocean, Tropical Fishes, Turtles, Coral, Snorkling, Swimming
Hanauma Bay, Honolulu Hawaii, USA

Hanauma Bay

Description - Hours of Operations - Location

  • Hanauma (pronounced "ha-na-OO-mah", in Hawaiian)
  • is a marine embayment
  • formed within a volcanic cone
  • located along the southeast coast of the Island of Oʻahu (just east of Honolulu) in the Hawaiian Islands
  • Hana means 'bay' and uma means 'shelter,' rendering "Shelter Bay."
  • Though some call it "Hanauma Bay," this is a tautology: Hawaiians simply call this feature "Hanauma"
  • Hanauma is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Island
  • has suffered somewhat from overuse (at one time accommodating over three million visitors per year)
  • In the 1950s, dynamite was used to clear portions of the reef to expand the area available for swimming
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, one of the most spectacular natural resources in Hawaii, is reaping the benefits of over a decade of moves to re-establish its pristine marine ecosystem. Recognizing the damage done by years of neglect and abuse by allowing some three million visitors annually, the City and County of Honolulu in 1990 laid out a plan to restore Hanauma to a clean, healthy state by reducing the number of visitors, establishing an education program, and instituting supportive restrictions.

The culmination of the protection and preservation efforts are the major upper and lower bay facility improvements, the heart of which is the award-winning Marine Education Center, that opened in August 2002. Hanauma now has a site where its education program flourishes. A short video welcomes residents and visitors, encouraging them to join staff and volunteers as stewards of this precious gift of Hanauma and other living reef environments they may visit.

Not a beach park for beach sport, but a Nature Preserve dedicated to safeguarding the fragile marine life in the Bay, Hanauma is the first Marine Life Conservation District in the State. We welcome you to be a part of our effort to protect and preserve the Bay.

Hanauma is both a Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District (the first of several established in the State of Hawaiʻi). Reflecting changes in attitude, its name has changed over time from Hanauma Bay Beach Park to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Visitors are required by law to refrain from mistreating marine animals or from touching, walking, or otherwise having contact with coral heads, which appear much like large rocks on the ocean floor (here, mostly seaward of the shallow fringing reef off the beach). It is always recommended to avoid contacting coral or marine rocks as cuts to the skin can result and neglecting such wounds may bring medical problems.

Hanauma Bay is known for its abundance of Green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas, known as Honu. Hanauma is a nursery ground for the immature turtles, which have their nesting grounds at French Frigate Shoals. It is also known for its abundance of parrotfish.

The Hawaiian Islands are a group of volcanoes that have risen up over a hot spot, which is a section of the Earth's surface that has exhibited volcanism for an extended period of time. Volcanic chains such as the Hawaiian Islands form as a result of the movement of a tectonic plate across fixed hot spot beneath the surface. In the case of the Hawaiian Islands, the Pacific plate has moved slowly northwestward over such a hotspot.

Approximately 3.9 million years ago, the Waiʻanae volcano created the island of Oʻahu. About 2.5 million years ago, the Koʻolau volcano erupted on the ocean floor, and continued to grow in elevation until about 1.7 million years ago, when it went dormant. Most of the eastern or windward portion of Oʻahu are remnants of this volcano. Most of the familiar geographic landmarks of eastern Oʻahu were created by eruptions from Koʻolau from about 500,000 to 10,000 years ago. The eastern flank of the Koʻolau volcano including the caldera slid into the sea, leaving the Koʻolau mountain range that can be seen today on the windward side of the island.

The Hanauma Crater is a relic of the latest (and perhaps final) burst of volcanic activity to occur on Oʻahu. Tens of thousands of years ago, a series of volcanic vents opened along the southeast shoreline of Oʻahu. Unlike the gentle lava flows currently building the island of Hawaiʻi, the late-stage eruptions on Oʻahu were violent explosions. The volcanic vents that formed Hanauma Crater opened on the sea floor. Upwelling magma vaporized the ocean water and steam explosions atomized the magma into fine ash. The explosions built cones of ash, which solidified into tuff. The eruptions shattered the sea floor—coral reef and basalt—and scattered pieces that are now embedded in the tuff. Wave erosion eventually cut through the low, southeast wall of the crater, forming the current bay. The humuhumunukunukuapua'a (Reef triggerfish) is the fish of Hawaii/Hanauma bay. You will see many of those close to corals next to and in the key hole.

Hanauma Bay was purchased from the Bernice Pauahi Bishop estate by the City and County of Honolulu for $1, and subsequently opened for public use. It was initially a favorite fishing and picnic spot for residents who were willing to travel out to the bay. In the 30's the road along Hanauma Bay's corner of Oahu was paved and a few other amenities provided that made it easier to visit the beach and reef. After closure during World War II the Bay area reopened and became even more visitor friendly after blasting in the reef for a transoceanic cable provided room for swimming.

In 1967 it was set apart by the State division of Fish and Game as a Marine Protected Area, a term used generically to describe any marine area that had some or all of its resources protected. In Hanauma Bay's case everything became protected, from the fish to the reef, to the sand itself. A volunteer group set up a booth at the beach and began teaching visitors about conservation of the reef and fish who lived there. More changes in the 70's by the City cleared more area in the reef for swimming, made an additional parking lot, and shipped in white sand from the North Shore, leaving Hanauma Bay increasingly more attractive to visitors.

By 1990 overuse of the beach and surrounding area was a real problem, with visitors walking on the reef, swarming the surrounding areas, parking on the grass and on the sides of the road. Measures were taken to limit use and so visitor access was limited to the parking lot, and when it was full everyone after was turned away. A few years later in 1998 an admission fee was charged, further reducing the number of visitors. Then in August of 2002 the Marine Education Center was opened at the entrance to the bay, where still today new visitors must watch a short film and receive instruction about conservation of the Bay's resources.

Today Hanauma Bay sees an average of 3000 visitors a day, or around a million visitors a year. The majority are tourists.

Along the left point is the infamous Toilet Bowl, a natural spa tub that gently rises and falls with the tide. On days with high surf it is not gentle and can injure or kill people. The Toilet Bowl has been closed to the public since the mid 90s.


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