Monday, Oct. 17:
Last full day in Hawaii. Insert sad face here. I really did not want to leave that place! But, since it was our last full day I wanted to make the most of it!
Originally, we hadn’t planned on snorkeling. We didn’t have the equipment and the better snorkeling areas were farther away than we wished to travel and the one place that was near us to snorkel had great reviews but also cautioned that it could be really touristy, crowded, and that a lot of the coral had been destroyed by stupid people stomping all over it. How sad! (and yes we saw a few idiots standing on the reef while we were there…but we prefer not to remember that part…)
Anyway as much as it seemed like not the best place to go I am sooooo glad we did! We had an absolute blast, saw loads of fish, gorgeous scenery, and crossed of something on our bucket list. All in all it was the perfect way to spend our last full day in Hawaii.
Although we did end up getting sunburned (and yes we did reapply!), our trip to Hanauma Bay was worth it!
Before we get to snorkeling here’s a little bit about Hanauma Bay:
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of Hawaii’s most popular attractions. Believed to be 35,000 years old, the bay is a marine embayment formed within the a volcanic crater and located along the southeast coast of Oahu. Declared a marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967, Hanauma Bay is sheltered from strong currents and waves, making it an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling, and marine education. Some of the reef inhabitants include tangs, parrotfish, butterfly fish, moorish idols, surgeonfish and more. Turtles can also be seen here on occasion.
The bay is about 10 mi from Waikiki so we hopped on The Bus and go there at about 9am. Before being allowed to go down to the beach we had to pay the park fee and watch a 10 min video about how the bay was formed and how to protect & respect the living coral reef and its inhabitants. Trollies take visitors up and down the steep slope but we opted to walk down to the beach ourselves and save our money for a ride back up once we were exhausted from snorkeling. Next, we hit up the snorkel rental shop and picked up our dry gear which consisted of flippers, mask, and snorkel.
As we tested out our equipment before getting into the water I had a panic attack when I attempted to breathe through the snorkel. I have no fear of snorkeling but apparently my body does and it was very much rejecting the idea of breathing through that tube. After a few more failed attempts, I tearfully gave up and decided to “snorkel” with just my mask and flippers. I have never had a panic attack in my life and I definitely would prefer to never have on again. I love to swim but snorkeling/scuba must just be to claustrophobic for me. I’d rather be free! Even swimming with the mask (which blocks your nose also) caused me to be anxious for some reason. I really wish I’d remembered to bring my goggles – but no one anticipated this – so guess I’ll know for next time.
Anyway, I got past it all and managed to have fun, snorkel, and see the reef and amazing fish – it just took a few more breaths to do it!
Mr.C and I were “snorkel buddies” (as recommended by the safety video) and so since I had to pause more often to rest and catch my breath, Mr.C followed me as I led him around the bay. From atop the hill the bay seems small but when you actually get down there it is huge. We only managed to see a small portion of it!
Reviewers online say that the best snorkeling is farther out in the bay, past the “breaks” but the current was strong on the day we went so we just stuck to the shallow areas. We weren’t disappointed though because you could go about 5ft from shore and see a plethora of fish. So we floated around the bay for a few hours, breaking for lunch, taking pictures, and just enjoying the day. The waves got rough at times and I banged into the reef twice but overall the water was calm and allowed you to see the fish and reef. Towards the afternoon it got harder to see the creatures because so many people were swimming and stirring up the water – so we were glad we had the chance to see a bunch that morning!
It really was like swimming in a giant aquarium! The Mr. & I saw a few schools of fish, urchins on the reef, trigger fish, tang fish, butterfly fish, yellow tale wrasse, parrot fish, needlefish, and even an eel (!).
The eel was creepy, we’d just seen one at the aquarium the day before, so to see on in person as a little eerie. It was black and was popping out, open mouthed from under the coral.
The parrot fish was amazing! We floated in awe for a few minutes watching him nibble on the reef. You could hear him munching and crunch on it as he put his “beak” on the edge and snapped off a piece. It was the coolest thing!!!
The fish are so used to visitors that they go about their business without a care. They aren’t afraid to swim extremely close to you or to even touch you as they swim by. It was so neat looking a few inches beneath you and seeing 5 fish just swimming right underneath your belly.
Although we took photos on our underwater camera, they didn’t turn out the best. I’ll post a few below but first I wanted to share this video that someone else took while snorkeling in Hanauma Bay so you can “virtually snorkel” with us and witness the colorful beauty we were so lucky to see! :::be sure to have your sound turned on:::
Once we were exhausted from snorkeling we packed up and headed to the top of the hill to catch the bus back to Waikiki. Little did we know we would spend an hour + on that bus since Hanauma Bay was only half way on its route. It turned out to be okay because we saw some amazing views of the southeast side of Oahu as we drove the winding roads past beaches we hadn’t seen, some epic cliffs, and I believe even a blow hole. Once we picked up passengers at Sea Life we headed back towards Waikiki. I fell asleep as when I awoke I looked around and we were back…at Hanauma Bay! We’d basically gone full circle – but thank god we did! The line for the bus was long and the driver had to turn people down. The 20 minute ride back to Waikiki was cramped and we were thankful we had a seat unlike the many people that had to stand.
Upon arrival at Waikiki we headed back to our hotel to shower, slather aloe vera on our burned backs, and rest a bit before grabbing some pineapple & chocolates and hitting the beach for our last Hawaiian sunset.
After watching the sun go down at the beach, we wandered over to the International Market, had one last plateful of yummy chicken kabobs, then headed back to the room for more aloe vera and sleep.
Stay tuned for the finale of our honeymoon, “Hawaii Part 7: Mahalo for the Memories“!