Today’s Featured Writer is Vic Dinovici of Hop Tours. His guest post is a fun bit of accurately detailed fiction that could just as well be any of a hundred different people’s story. It is certainly more universal than my quirky story last April… Enjoy! -E.G.D.
Special thanks to our friend F. Travis Riley for today’s Hanauma Bay photography.
I visited Hanauma Bay for the first time this last June. Having very little experience with the ocean, or anything to do with ‘water related activities,’ I was a little apprehensive at the idea of snorkeling at Hanauma Bay and had no idea what to expect. My boyfriend, who had visited Hanauma Bay before, assured me it was probably one of the safest places to learn how to snorkel, and that turned out to be true.
We hadn’t rented a car, choosing to spend most of our vacation in and around the Waikiki bustle. This left us the option of going with a snorkeling tour group or taking the bus; we chose the bus. Bus #22 picked us up at 8:30 am at the corner of Kuhio Ave and Kalakaua, and surprisingly most seats were already filled with tourists going to Hanauma Bay. It seemed completely ridiculous to be boarding a city bus with a cooler full of food and drinks, snorkel gear, a boogie-board and my bikini top, but the bus driver must’ve been used to it because he announced Hanauma Bay was his last stop and the trip would take around 45 minutes.
The bus dropped us off at the Hanauma Bay parking lot. From there it’s a short walk to the ticket counter. Admission is surprisingly cheap. Admission is the same price as a Waikiki Mai Tai, $7.50 for visitors, and free for military and locals. There is a mandatory 9 minute informational video that covers the history of the Hanauma Bay Marine Sanctuary and important snorkeling and swimming etiquette. We had to wait 15 minutes until the next showing, but there is an incredible overlook that gives you the perfect vantage point of Hanauma’s volcanic caldera, the gorgeous beach and the breathtakingly blue water. I had never seen such inviting water before in my life – the day of snorkeling in Hanauma Bay has arrived! Even from the overlook, I knew the water was going to be warm and inviting. I couldn’t wait.
After the video, we walked down the steep incline toward the beach. Even though the sun had not yet crested the lip of the caldera, it was already warm. We found out later, finding shade or bringing a shade-tent is key to an enjoyable day at Hanauma. The bay is protected from the afternoon trade winds and feels much hotter than the normally 85-90 degree afternoons.
As soon as we laid out our blankets and ‘marked our turf,’ we jumped in the water. I spent the first 10 minutes snorkeling in waist-deep water just getting familiar with the fins, mask and breathing through the snorkel; but it didn’t take me long before I was venturing toward the reefs.
At 9:30 am there were only a few people in the water, and the fish were everywhere. Entire schools surrounded us, swimming through our legs and right past our masks. It felt like I had been dropped into the middle of an aquarium during feeding time.
Without meaning to, we timed the tides perfectly, beginning our first snorkel at exactly high tide. Normally shallow reefs were easy to swim across, allowing us to see every part of the bay’s reefs. Later on in the afternoon as the tides changed, those same reefs were actually exposed, with some even above the water line.
Hanauma’s beach is truly picturesque – the kind of beach every mid-west gal dreams of visiting. We spent much of the afternoon in the shade of a coconut tree, reading, and talking; taking occasional swims in the water whenever we became too hot. A perfect beach day. However, we were glad to have brought our own cooler and lunch. There is a concession stand near the parking lot, but prices are expensive and choices are limited. Local families bring wheeled, industrial sized coolers down to the beach.
Beach days disappear in a flash, and it was already late afternoon by the time we were climbing the hill back toward the bus stop; my shoulders already a threateningly dark pink. The #22 Waikiki bound bus runs once an hour. Make sure you check the bus schedule so you don’t spend 45 minutes waiting like we did.
About the author: Vic likes snorkeling and scuba diving at Hanauma Bay, long bike rides and writing about cool stuff happening in Honolulu and Oahu island. Evenings and weekends, he enjoys sharing stories with his friends over some beers and delicious traditional Hawaiian food like kalua pig, pipiluala ribs or squid luau.