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Tip: This town is best known for hosting the annual Merrie Monarch Festival.
Snorkel Oahu’s Hot Spots
What does a humuhumunukunukuapua’a have to do with snorkeling, or anything else, for that matter? Well, it’s a cute little fish that sort of resembles a pig and could come up on your snorkel screen. This little fish with a yard-long name is really quite famous having risen to popularity in the words of a song about a little grass shack and as Hawaii’s state fish, a designation that unexpectedly expired but looks to be reinstated. If you want to see one, try Hanauma Bay Nature Park, Oahu’s most popular snorkeling spot.
Hanauma Bay is a sunken volcanic crater ringed with 2,000 feet of golden sand and open to the ocean on one side. Formerly a playground for Hawaiian royalty, the bay is now a State Underwater Park and Conservation District. A filigree of inner reefs protect the novice snorkeler from the open ocean and, in turn, protect thousands of fish and other sealife from their natural predators. The bay abounds with colorful schools of striped Manini, silvery needlefish, buttercup Yellow Tang, the large and quick Palani, the stunning Moorish Idols, opalescent Parrotfish and hopefully the humuhumu.
The park is open every day but Tuesday. Summer hours are 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, the park is open until 10 p.m. During the winter, Hanauma Bay is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on the second Saturday of each month, it remains open until 10 p.m. Entrance fee is $5 with a $1 parking fee. There is no entrance fee for children under 13 nor for Hawaii residents with proof of residency.
There are many other snorkel spots on Oahu. Try Kailua Beach Park on Tuesdays when Hanauma is closed. Shark’s Cove on the North Shore, between Haleiwa and Pupukea. is another good spot. (Contrary to the name, no sharks have been spotted there.) Malaekahana Beach Park, just north of La’ie town, and Kuilima Cove at Turtle Bay are also good choices.
Snorkeling is an inexpensive pastime that is easier to learn than surfing or scuba diving and can be done either by booking a cruise or finding a good spot on a beach. If you book a cruise, expect gear, lunch and other amenities to be provided.
Snorkel safety tips:
1. Never snorkel alone. Hang with a buddy.
2. Never turn your back to the ocean.
3. Whenever possible snorkel in the morning. Fish are significantly more active in the morning, and predictable afternoon winds make water clarity less than ideal.
4. Marine life tends to congregate around structures, so stick to reefs for the best opportunity to score a face-to-face encounter.
5. Don’t feed the fish.
6. Even on the cloudiest of days, use waterproof sunscreen.
7. Take a small cooler with bottled water, snacks, and food. Most beaches don’t have concession stands.
8. Snorkeling isn’t so much about swimming as it is about floating. Stay relaxed, float, kick only when necessary. The more relaxed you are in the water, the more relaxed and friendly the fish will be.
9. Be respectful of the ocean. Avoid standing on coral, which is the foundation of Hawaii’s reef environment, All sea creatures rely on the reef for homes, protection, and food. Broken coral takes many years to grow back.
11. Don’t combine snorkeling with alcohol or drugs.