Sunday, August 23, 2009

Snorkeling in Hawaii

The best thing Hawaii has to offer is its natural beauty. The nightlife and posh resorts are nice, but that experience can be had just about anywhere.

No trip is really complete without getting an up-close view of the myriad tropical fish.

There are, literally, hundreds of places to snorkel on the islands, but one of the easiest to reach for most visitors in Hanauma Bay, on Oahu's eastern shore about 10 miles from Waikiki.
The best advice I can give for a trip to Hanauma Bay is to get there early. The nature preserve is invariably crowded during its open hours, and the more people out kicking through the water, the more sand gets stirred up, obscuring your view.

After paying $1 to park and $7.50 per person to enter, there is a mandatory video before visitors can descend to the beach, either on foot or by tram.

I've been to Hanauma Bay several times, and despite snorkeling opportunities elsewhere, it is still worth the cost.

I brought my own snorkeling gear, but there are numerous places to rent it in Waikiki, as well as at the bay itself. The benefit to renting in Waikiki is that you can take it to other parts of the island once you're done with Hanauma Bay.

On my last trip, I swam along the surface as I snorkeled - something it takes some people a while to get used to, as breathing underwater just isn't natural.

With the narrow inlet to the bay, there is really no danger of being swept out to sea as long as you stay close to shore, and the water is shallow enough to stand up in if you get tired.

The fish you'll see the most of are schools of unimpressive silver fish, but they are exciting at first.

After about 10 minutes in the water, I spotted several angelfish, with their tall, narrow bodies slicing through the water as they scurried for cover. I also notices several rainbow-spotted fish, a number of skinny trumpetfish that resemble eels and dozens of other sea creatures.

After about two hours at the beach, the cars and buses brought more and more people, and I decided to head out to another part of the island and get on with the trip.

For more information about Hanauma Bay, visit the official site here.

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