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Visiting Hanauma Bay in Oahu with Kids

Did you know that Hanauma Bay Natural Preserve is the site of some of the best snorkeling on the island of Oahu? But there's more to this place than just snorkeling. Today I want to share with you 3 things to do when visiting Hanauma Bay in Oahu with kids. A few months ago we visited Oahu with our 10 year old and 4 year old kids and despite the 6 age gap between them, they both completely loved exploring this beautiful beach destination.

3 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Hanauma Bay in Oahu with Kids

Here are 3 fun things your kids will enjoy doing when visiting Hanauma Bay in Oahu. This picturesque place offers an overall great island experience whether you're a beginner or avid snorkeler. Or even if you're not a get in the water person at all. Although, with beautiful clear and serene waters like these, sitting it out on the sand may be a really hard thing to do!

Explore & Learn at the Marine Education Center at Hanauma Bay

Once a gaping volcanic crater, today Hanauma Bay serves as both a Nature Preserve and Marine Life Conservation site. Declared a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967, today Hanauma Bay is home to about 400 species of fish are known to inhabit this hana. Hana means bay in Hawaiian. And this place is known for it’s abundance of Green sea turtles, known as Honu in Hawaiian.

Before making your way down the steep hill to the beach at Hanauma Bay, all visitors must make a stop at the Marine Education Center where a short 9 minute video presentation talks about the bay and marine life. It instructs you on how to respect the environment and shares the rules you must follow during your time here.
On your way in to view the video, take the opportunity to explore the Marine Education Center at Hanauma Bay and learn about the history of this location. Many years ago Hawaiian Royalty used this popular bay for fishing and recreation. There are many interactive displays available and volunteer experts are on hand to answer questions. My kids really loved learning about the marine life here.

There's also a fun little gift shop close by if you want to take home a little souvenir.

Snorkel or Don't

Hanauma Bay brings all the family fun and is one of the best snorkeling location on Oahu. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or an avid snorkeler, this place is great for all ages!

We brought our own snorkel gear with us since we already owned sets for each of our family members. You can also rent snorkel gear here for a minimal fee. The water is clear, mostly still and shallow so it makes for a great experience even for little kids. My 10 year old had a great time snorkeling for hours, as did all the grown ups in our family. If you're lucky you might even swim alongside a sea turtle! My husband did on a previous trip here. This time we weren't as lucky but we still swam alongside some pretty vibrant fish. So fun!

My four year old skipped out on the snorkeling this time. Still, just sitting in the shallow waters she enjoyed watching small fish swim by. There's ample space for everyone to stretch out so no matter if you're snorkeling, wading about, or just sitting by the shoreline, every choice is a good choice at Hanauma Bay! And any way you look at it, it's a fun outdoor adventure in Oahu with kids.

Take the Tram

The actual beach at Hanauma Bay is located at the bottom of a really, really​ steep hill. Of course you can walk down or up and probably catch the best views and the best pictures of the bay during your trek. However, if you're traveling with young kids and carrying tons of beach gear, the tram may be a truly appealing option.

Personally, we walked down the hill on our way onto the beach, when everyone was still energized early in the morning. On the way back up we considered the tram but chose to walk instead. Bad idea! Less than halfway up the hill our little one refused to continue on and Dad had to carry her the rest of the way. Poor Dad! But I don't blame her. It really was a way too steep walk up, especially after feeling tired from a long day of fun in the sun.

Walking up on a hot day, under the burning sun, can really be a struggle for some. If you think this might apply to you or your family, do everyone a favor and catch the tram up the hill. Just make sure to bring cash to pay for your fare. The tram ride down costs $1 per person and $1.25 on the way up. They also offer an all day package deal that gets you up and down the hill all day long. Especially worth paying for if you plan to spend the entire day here and plan on visiting the snack bar at the top of the hill throughout the day. No food is sold on the beach but you can grab get quick hamburgers and hot dogs, sandwiches, fries, salads etc. at the snack shop and carry it down to the beach.

RELATED:  Click to read - 4 Things to do with kids at the Dole Plantation in Oahu

In conclusion, some more helpful details...

Hanauma Bay is an extremely popular tourist destination so I recommend you get here early. They open as early as 6:00 AM daily, except Tuesday when they are closed. We didn’t arrive till 10AM and had to circle around a few times before finally being allowed to enter the parking lot as it was already full. It costs $1 to park but there are only 300 parking spots available so arrive early!

There is also a round-trip shuttle service available from Waikiki if you book it through the Hanauma Bay State Park website (for a $25 fee + snorkel gear rental included). Entry to Hanauma Bay costs $7.50 per person. Kids 12 and under are free. Snorkel gear rentals are available at the beach for a fee.

Once on the beach, you can enjoy family fun time in the sun, take a swim and snorkel if you wish. This place is great for families with small kids as there are no waves and there’s plenty of sand for castle building. Lifeguards are on duty and restroom facilities on site. This place is family fun for all!

Are you planning a trip to Oahu? 
Make sure not to miss a stop at Hanauma Bay!

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