All-inclusive Guide to Hanauma Bay Lookout in 2023

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In this blog post, we’ll provide you with a guide to Hanauma Bay Lookout, to ensure that your trip there is as seamless and enjoyable as possible.


Let’s get started.

Hanauma Bay Lookout

Hawaii is famous for its pristine beaches such as Hukilau Beach Park and the natural beauty of the region you can experience via North Shore Oahu hikes. Hanauma Bay Lookout in Oahu is no exception.

Overview of Hanauma Bay Lookout

Hanauma Bay Lookout, located on the beautiful island of Oahu in Hawaii, offers stunning panoramic views of the bay and its turquoise waters. Formed within a volcanic cone, Hanauma Bay itself is a pristine marine ecosystem that is a popular spot for snorkeling.


Despite the popularity of the bay, the lookout often gets overlooked. However, it offers a fantastic view of the bay without any associated costs.


Overall, Hanauma Bay Lookout provides a mix of adventure, relaxation, and natural beauty, making it a must-visit spot on Oahu.

Bad weather at Hanauma Bay Lookout

Hiking trails

Sure, here are some of the key hiking trails near Hanauma Bay Lookout:

  • Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike: This is one of the best short trails on Oahu. It’s known for its stunning views of Hanauma Bay and Koko Head. The trail is moderately challenging, making it suitable for most fitness levels.


  • Hanauma Bay Lookout Trail: This is a 0.8-mile out-and-back trail near Waimānalo. It’s generally considered a moderately challenging route, offering scenic views of the bay and the surrounding area.


  • Hanauma Bay Trail: This trail offers an easy hike up a cement road to the Hanauma Bay rock. The trail begins just west of Hanauma Bay turnout and is well-known for its panoramic views.


  • Kuliouou Ridge Trail: Located near Hanauma Bay Trail, this trail offers a more challenging hike with rewarding views. It takes you through a variety of landscapes, including lush forest and ridgeline vistas.


  • Koko Crater Trail: Also near Hanauma Bay, this trail leads up to the top of Koko Crater, offering incredible views of the entire leeward coast. It’s quite strenuous, as it involves climbing over 1,000 steps made from old railway ties.


  • Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: This trail is a bit further away but offers fantastic views of the island’s windward side. It’s a moderate-to-difficult hike due to its length and elevation gain.


Each of these trails offers a unique experience, from easy strolls to more challenging hikes. They all showcase the beautiful scenery around Hanauma Bay Lookout and are worth exploring if you’re in the area.

Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike
Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike

How to get there

Getting to Hanauma Bay Lookout can be achieved in several ways, depending on your starting location and preferred mode of transport.

  • By Car: If you’re driving, you would head east from Honolulu on the H1 Highway. Continue onto HI-72 S, following signs for Koko Head/Hanauma Bay. The entrance to Hanauma Bay will be on the right side of the road.


  • By Public Transit: The city bus (TheBus) also goes to Hanauma Bay. You can take Route 22 (The Beach Bus) from Waikiki. Keep in mind that the bus schedule may vary, so it’s advisable to check it ahead of time.


  • By Shuttle Service: Some hotels and private companies offer shuttle services that go directly to Hanauma Bay. This can be a convenient option if you prefer not to drive or navigate public transit.


  • By Guided Tour: Another option is to join a guided tour. Many tour companies in Oahu include a stop at Hanauma Bay in their itinerary.


Remember that parking can be limited, especially during peak tourist season, so arriving early in the day can help ensure you get a spot.


Also, keep in mind that Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays to allow the marine life a day of undisturbed rest.

The Kahala Hotel & Resort
The Kahala Hotel & Resort

Highlights of Hanauma Bay Lookout

Hanauma Bay Lookout offers a wealth of natural beauty and outdoor activities. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Breathtaking Views: The lookout offers panoramic views of the stunning Hanauma Bay, Koko Head Crater, and the surrounding coastline. It’s also an excellent spot for photography.


  • Trails: There are several hiking trails around the lookout. The Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike is a short trail that provides fantastic views of the bay with Koko Head Crater as the backdrop. The Hanauma Bay Lookout Trail is another option, popular for its moderate difficulty and rewarding views.


  • Flora and Fauna: The area is rich in biodiversity. The trail is often filled with beautiful wildflowers, and the bay itself is a pristine marine ecosystem, teeming with colorful fish and coral reefs.


  • Snorkeling: Hanauma Bay is one of the best places on Oahu for snorkeling. Formed within a volcanic cone, the bay offers crystal clear waters that are home to a variety of marine life.


  • Educational Experience: Before heading down to the beach, visitors are required to view a video about preserving the nature reserve and its marine life. This adds an educational element to the visit.


  • Accessibility: The area is accessible without a reservation, making it easy for visitors to enjoy the scenic views at their convenience.


  • Proximity to Other Attractions: Hanauma Bay Lookout is close to other attractions like the Halona Blowhole and Lanai Lookout, allowing visitors to explore multiple sites in one trip.


Visiting Hanauma Bay Lookout is a unique experience that combines adventure, relaxation, and education, making it a highlight of any visit to Oahu.

Hanauma Bay Lookout

Things to keep in mind

When planning a visit to Hanauma Bay Lookout, there are several things to keep in mind:

  • Operating Hours: The park is open from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM but is closed every Tuesday to allow the marine life a day of rest.


  • Parking: Parking can be limited, especially during peak tourist season. Arriving early in the day can help ensure you find a spot. There is a small parking fee.


  • Admission Fee: There is an admission fee for Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. However, the lookout itself is free to visit.


  • Snorkeling Gear: If you plan on snorkeling, you can rent gear at the beach park. Bringing your own equipment is also an option.


  • Preservation Video: Before heading down to the beach, visitors are required to view a video about preserving the nature reserve and its marine life.


  • Food and Beverages: There is a snack bar available at the location. However, it’s often a good idea to bring your own water and snacks, especially if you plan on hiking or snorkeling.


  • Sun Protection: The sun can be intense, so don’t forget your sunblock, hat, and sunglasses.


  • Respect the Environment: Remember that Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve, so treat it with respect. This means not touching or disturbing the marine life and picking up any trash.


  • Stay Safe: Always prioritize safety, especially when swimming or snorkeling. Stay within designated areas and follow all posted guidelines.


  • Weather Conditions: Weather can change quickly in Hawaii. Check the forecast before you go and be prepared for changing conditions.


By keeping these points in mind, you can ensure a fun, safe, and respectful visit to Hanauma Bay Lookout.

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort

Where to stay

Sure, here are some options for luxury, mid-budget, and budget accommodations near Hanauma Bay Lookout:



The Kahala Hotel & Resort: Known for its world-class service, this resort offers spacious rooms, a private beach, a spa, and several dining options.



Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort: Located about 9 miles from Hanauma Bay, this resort offers comfortable accommodations and multiple dining options.



Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Waikiki: A more budget-friendly option, this hotel offers basic amenities and is located around 9 miles from Hanauma Bay Lookout.

Hanauma Bay

Photo opportunities

Hanauma Bay Lookout offers several picturesque spots that are perfect for photography.


Here are some suggestions:

  • Hanauma Bay Panorama: The lookout provides an elevated view of the bay’s turquoise waters, contrasting against the darker blue of the ocean. This panoramic view is a must-capture!


  • Sunrise and Sunset: Arriving early in the morning or staying till evening can offer stunning sunrise or sunset shots. The changing colors of the sky provide a beautiful backdrop to the bay.


  • Marine Life: If you’re into underwater photography, Hanauma Bay’s clear waters are teeming with vibrant coral reefs and colorful tropical fish.


  • Trail Shots: The hiking trails around the lookout offer lush greenery and unique perspectives of the bay and the surrounding landscape.


  • Koko Head Crater: A photo featuring the massive Koko Head Crater in the background can be quite dramatic.


  • Flora and Fauna: Capture close-up shots of the local plants and birds you may encounter on your visit.


  • Portraits: The scenic beauty of the lookout makes it an ideal location for portrait photography, whether it’s a solo shot, couple photo, or a group picture.


Remember, the best photo opportunities often require patience. Take your time, explore different angles, and play with various light conditions to get that perfect shot.

Snorkling at Hanauma Bay Lookout

Tips and Tricks for Visiting Hanauma Bay Lookout

Here are some useful tips and tricks for visiting Hanauma Bay Lookout:

  • Arrive Early: The parking lot fills up quickly, especially during peak tourist season. Arriving early ensures you get a parking spot and beat the crowds.


  • Pack Essentials: Bring sun protection like sunscreen (reef-safe), hats, and sunglasses. Also, consider packing snacks, water, and a beach towel if you plan on snorkeling or sunbathing.


  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: If you’re planning to hike any of the trails, wear sturdy, comfortable shoes suitable for uneven terrain.


  • Snorkel Gear: You can rent snorkel gear at the beach, but bringing your own might be more cost-effective if you plan on snorkeling for several hours.


  • Preservation Video: Remember to watch the mandatory preservation video before heading down to the beach. It provides important information on how to interact with the marine life responsibly.


  • Bring a Camera: The lookout offers stunning views perfect for photography. Don’t forget to bring your camera or ensure your phone is charged to capture the memories.


  • Stay Hydrated: Hawaii can be hot, and between hiking, swimming, and sunbathing, it’s easy to get dehydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.


  • Respect the Environment: Remember that Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve. Avoid touching or disturbing the marine life and pick up all trash.


  • Check the Weather: Weather conditions can change rapidly, so it’s always a good idea to check the forecast before you go.


  • Plan Your Visit: Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays for maintenance and conservation efforts. Plan your visit accordingly.


By following these tips, you can make sure your visit to Hanauma Bay Lookout is a memorable and enjoyable one.

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Overall, Hanauma Bay Lookout is an incredible sight, perfect for nature lovers and photographers alike.


With its stunning views, safe trails, and nearby accommodation, it’s no wonder that this lookout point is one of Hawaii’s most popular attractions.


We hope that our guide has provided you with all the necessary information to make your upcoming trip to Hanauma Bay Lookout a success!



Can you just go to Hanauma Bay Lookout?

Yes, you can visit Hanauma Bay Lookout, but keep in mind it’s not accessible every day. The bay is closed on Tuesdays to give the marine life a break from human interaction. It’s open from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM on other days.

There’s an admission fee for entering the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, and parking is available for an additional fee. The parking lot tends to fill up quickly, so arriving early is recommended.

Before accessing the beach, all visitors are required to watch an educational video about preserving the marine environment.

Also, remember that Hanauma Bay Lookout is a protected marine life conservation area, so it’s crucial to respect the environment during your visit. This includes not touching the coral or marine life, staying within designated areas, and taking any trash with you when you leave.


How long does it take to hike Hanauma Bay Ridge?

The length of the hike on Hanauma Bay Ridge can vary depending on your pace and how often you stop, but generally, it takes around 1 to 2 hours to complete. The trail is moderately difficult and spans approximately 5 miles round trip. Remember to wear comfortable shoes, bring plenty of water, and protect yourself from the sun. Don’t rush the hike; take the time to enjoy the beautiful views and photo opportunities along the way.


Is Hanauma Bay worth it?

Yes, many visitors find Hanauma Bay Lookout worth visiting due to its unique natural beauty, rich marine life, and excellent snorkeling opportunities. The bay is a nature preserve and a marine life conservation district, making it a fantastic spot for those interested in nature and ecology. It’s also known for its clear waters and white sand beach.

However, keep in mind that it can get quite crowded, especially during peak tourist season. Some people feel there are other places on Oahu that offer equally good or better snorkeling experiences with fewer crowds.

For the best experience, plan to arrive early, bring reef-safe sunscreen, and remember to respect the marine life and the environment. It’s also worth noting that there is an admission fee, which goes towards maintaining and preserving the area.


Is there a shuttle to Hanauma Bay?

Yes, there are shuttle services available to Hanauma Bay. Some companies offer a round-trip transportation service from Waikiki, which is about 30 minutes each way. These shuttles often include professional-grade, sanitized snorkel gear for rent. However, schedules and prices may vary between companies, so it’s advisable to check online or make a booking in advance. Please note that there used to be a direct bus from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay, but this service has been discontinued.


How do I get from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay without a car?

Getting from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay without a car can be done in several ways:

  1. Bus: You can take TheBus #22, also known as THE BEACH BUS from Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki. This bus will take you down into Hanauma Bay.
  2. Shuttle Service: There are shuttle services that offer round-trip transport from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay, often including snorkel gear rental.
  3. Taxi or Rideshare Services: Companies like Uber or Lyft can provide a direct ride to Hanauma Bay from Waikiki.

Remember to check the operating hours of Hanauma Bay before planning your trip as it is closed on Tuesdays for conservation purposes.


How early should I get to Hanauma Bay?

To make the most of your visit to Hanauma Bay, it’s recommended that you arrive early. The bay opens at 6:00 AM and it’s suggested to be there around this time as it tends to get crowded quickly, especially during peak tourist season.

If you’re planning to get walk-in tickets, aim to arrive at the bay by 6:45 AM, as these are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis and your entire party must be present to obtain them.

Please note that the parking lot fills up quickly and is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Arriving early not only ensures a parking spot but also offers a chance to see the most marine life and possibly avoid the heat of the day.


What is the best way to get to Hanauma Bay Lookout?

The best way to get to Hanauma Bay Lookout depends on your starting point and preferred mode of transport:

  1. Driving: If you’re driving from Waikiki, take the H1 Freeway until it ends and becomes Kalanianaole Highway. The entrance to Hanauma Bay is located on the right at the top of the hill just past Hawaii Kai.
  2. Bus: You can take TheBus #22 from Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki. This bus will take you down into Hanauma Bay. Please note, you might have to walk a bit to reach the bay from the bus stop.
  3. Shuttle Service: Various companies offer shuttle services from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay. Some of these include snorkeling equipment as part of their service.
  4. Taxi or Rideshare Services: You can hire a taxi or use a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft to get to Hanauma Bay.

Remember that Hanauma Bay Lookout is closed on Tuesdays for conservation purposes. It’s also recommended to arrive early, especially during peak tourist season, as parking is limited and the bay can get quite crowded.


Is there Uber to Hanauma Bay Lookout?

Yes, you can use Uber to get to Hanauma Bay Lookout. The cost of an Uber ride from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay varies but is generally considered to be an affordable and convenient option. However, do keep in mind that during peak times or increased demand, the fare may be higher due to surge pricing. Also, availability of Ubers for your return trip might vary, so it’s a good idea to check the app for available cars before you’re ready to leave.


Do you need shoes at Hanauma Bay Lookout?

You don’t strictly need water shoes or reef shoes for snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Lookout, as you’re not allowed to stand on the coral. That said, some visitors choose to wear them for comfort and extra protection when walking on the beach or entering the water.


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Laura & Alexander

Laura & Alexander

We're two full-time Belgian travellers sharing our experience through our blog. Our aim is to inspire your next travel adventure with our best tips and tricks from every country we visit.

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