Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on Oʻahu Reopens

A heavy emphasis is being placed on protecting the bay from the adverse effects of over-tourism.
Photo: Getty Images

Christmas is coming early this year, as the City and County of Honolulu announced that starting on Wednesday, Dec. 2, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve will once again be open to the public. The reopening of the bay comes in the form of a pilot program started by the city to protect Hanauma Bay from the adverse effects of over-tourism and to find a balance between conservation and recreation.

The bay was initially closed on March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To reopen Hanauma Bay, multiple safety measures have been put into place to allow operations to run smoothly and to encourage social distancing. Measures include face-coverings being required to be worn at all times within Hanauma Bay, a 720-person cap on visitors per day, bay closures every Monday and Tuesday—to give marine life more time without snorkelers obstructing their peace—and a halt on commercial vehicles and tour groups operating with Hanauma Bay. Entry into the bay will only be allowed from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and all visitors must leave Hanauma Bay by 4 p.m.

READ MORE: Hanauma Bay Has Never Looked So Good

Research shows the protected bay on Oʻahu has been recovering since the state shutdown in March.
Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

“It [Hanauma Bay] is an incredible resource and an incredible reserve that tells stories about the ʻāina and people,” says Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell. “All of these measures are in place to balance conservation efforts, safety of the public and staff, and the ability to responsibly enjoy this world class environmental feature. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we implement these new procedures.”

A parking fee increase has also been implemented to the bay, which will now cost $3 to park for visitors—as well as a $12 entry fee. Entry will continue to be free for Hawaiʻi residents, with parking at $1. Visitors to the park will still have to watch the bay’s educational video in the preserve’s theater room—which will now be limited to 30 people at a time—and the bay’s gift shop, education center, food concession, snorkel and locker rental facilities will remain closed, so bring your own gear. The bay’s reopening pilot project will continue for two months starting today, at which point researchers will assess the health of the bay and, if necessary, make additional changes to Hanauma Bay’s reopening process.

“As a fiscally responsible nature preserve, Hanauma Bay has served as an amazing model of how to focus on both the recreational needs of the community and the conservation of its natural resources,” said Michele Nekota, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. “We see these new operations as a pilot program, which we hope can improve efforts to learn from, enjoy, and maintain Hanauma Bay in this pandemic era.”

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