Written By Joseph Mains
The morning was peaceful and still in the predawn as the adults drank iced coffee and waited for our shuttle to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. We’d booked just the night before, so easy, and with our driver pulling up right on time and helping the family with our beach gear, we were on our way. A quick jaunt east past Diamond Head, chatting with the couple on our shuttle and catching some local history with the driver. We pulled in to the visitors center just before first light.
We arrived above the bay as a gentle breeze brought the smell of ocean air through the trees. The sun calmly pulled above the horizon. We claimed the snorkeling equipment and parasols waiting for us and took the gradual path down to the beach. After a brief video in the marine education center that covered the natural history of the bay, as well as how to stay safe and best enjoy the sealife while respecting the fragile habitat.
Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii
Created by volcanic activity over 1,000 years ago, Hanauma Bay lies just 10 miles east of Waikiki and has been a celebrated recreation area since Hawaiian nobility would come to entertain guests, fish and enjoy games together. In 1967 Hanauma Bay became a protected habitat, and the pristine water, coral and aquatic life makes it easy to feel like as visitors we are part of a lineage of humans who both enjoy and are compelled to help preserve the future of these places for future generations.
Entering the calm, crystal waters in the middle of a volcanic crater, one is met with a sense of the smallness of humans in the natural world. The gradual slope of the beach made it easy for everyone to wade or swim out in their comfort zone. Gliding easy over the coral-covered bottom, home to over 400 species of tropical fishes going about their lives as we swam past, lingered, let the bay’s delicate water lulling us from school to school — green turtles here and there along the way.
The tranquil, shallow water made it easy to get the young kids out snorkeling around and enjoying how close the aquatic life would come to them. (Be sure to remind kids — and adults — to keep 10 feet from turtles and not to touch the fish, coral or otherwise disrupt the fragile ecosystem.) By mid-morning we were sunning on the beach, enjoying refreshments and taking in the awe-inspiring beauty that is absolutely inspiring to be immersed in.
As if intuiting the rhythms of our visit, our shuttle pick up came at the perfect time. We simply dropped off our gear, hopped in the van and were spirited back to the doors of ‘Alohilani right in time for a little lunch and some relaxation time next to the seawater aquarium at O Bar.