Review Date AVG ShoreDiving Site
09/27/2018 3.00 Hanauma Bay Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
IF YOU ARE A SERIOUS SNORKELER OR SCUBA DIVER, YOU MIGHT CONSIDER AVOIDING HANAUMA BAY This beautiful, sheltered and crowded bay is possibly the most popular beach in Hawaii after Waikiki, and there is a shuttle that can give you and your gear a lift down to the beach and back. However, before proceeding to the beach you have to watch a seven minute video about how the bay was formed and how you shouldn't step on the fragile coral because that kills it. I snorkeled all around the cove on the beach side of the breakers in the middle of the bay. The visibility was perhaps 15 to 20 feet, and there were a fair number of fish. But it was a biological desert, and I saw only a single coral. When I got back to the beach I asked the lifeguard, Where's all the coral that I'm not supposed to step on? He told me, It all died from people stepping on it. I returned a few days later specifically to ask the docent who shows the video why he tells people not to step on the coral when it's been dead for years. He gave me an unexpectedly clever answer: We don't want to disappoint people. And I don't tell people "Don't step on the coral." I tell them "don't step on the rocks where living things are growing." So I don't lie. The living things he's talking about are the algae that cover the rocks that the fish graze on. This time I took about ten minutes to swim through the outer reef channel between the two cylinder buoy markers to get beyond the breaker line, AND IT BECAME A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD AND WELL WORTH THE EXTRA EFFORT. The visibility almost immediately opened up to between 80 to 100 feet. I saw many different species of coral and a lot more fish species than closer to shore. Some of the fish are just awesomely beautiful; it's like swimming in a giant aquarium. Seeing these beautiful fish live is just magical, a whole different experience from looking at them in a picture or on TV. Fortunately or unfortunately - most people don't get beyond the breaker line, so the aquatic wildlife remains safe. Of course, those lazy slackers have no idea what they're missing, and many don't care. If you do follow a channel through the breakers, try to remember where it's located, otherwise you could get severely scrapped over the rocks on the return trip if the tide is out. Ask the lifeguard for directions on where to swim to. As an alternative to Hanauma Bay, I recommend Electric Beach which is about as far above Honolulu as Hanauma Bay is below. The beach is smaller and less protected so sometimes it gets high waves. But the coral starts right off the beach, visibility is generally over 100 feet, and there are usually between one to four tourist dive boats anchored offshore. Their presence is testimony to how good a dive site Electric Beach is. The surface water temperature in late August and early September was 81 degrees further out and 84 closer to shore. And, of course, if you're a snorkeler new to Hawaii, don't get one of those free, complimentary Hawaiian sunburns; if you lack a suit, wear a t-shirt even in the water.