Encounter Exotic Sea Creatures in Hawaii Marine Preserve on Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Tour

If you’re snorkeling in Hawaii – on Oahu, specifically – chances are you’re snorkeling in the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. This spectacular marine life sanctuary, formed by an ancient volcano and ringed by a white coral sand beach, draws about 3,000 visitors daily. That makes it the most popular snorkeling destination on the island.

University professor, geoscientist, coastal ecologist and author Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (aka “Dr. Beach”) boosted Hanauma Bay’s popularity even further when he named it “Best Beach in the United States for 2016” in his famous annual list.

When snorkeling in this scenic hotspot, you’ll encounter a dazzling array of tropical fish inhabiting a fragile coral reef. To understand what you’re seeing, pick up a laminated fish ID card bearing photos of exotic marine life. This colorful card is produced by the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program.

Also, take care to avoid stepping on coral formations. That coral is alive, and it sustains all the fish, sea urchins, eels and other marine creatures inhabiting the bay.

Eight Safety Tips for Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay

For safety reasons, it’s important to snorkel with a buddy, even in the protected waters of Hanauma Bay. Other safety tips include:

  • Swim in lifeguarded areas only;
  • Check with a lifeguard about beach and surf conditions before entering the water;
  • Don’t dive into unknown water or shallow breaking waves;
  • If caught in a strong current, signal for help;
  • Rely on your swimming ability, not a flotation device;
  • Read and obey all beach safety signs; and
  • Take special care to supervise children.

With all that in mind, slip on a swim mask, bite down on a snorkel and get wet in the warm Pacific. 

Here are some of the aquatic creatures you might encounter in Hanauma Bay:

  • Green Sea Turtle (Hawaii’s beloved
    and endangered “honu”)
  • Day Octopus
  • Oval Squid
  • Whitemouth Moray Eel
  • Yellowmargin Moray Eel
  • Red Pencil Sea Urchin
  • Spotted Pufferfish
  • Pennant Butterflyfish
  • Multiband Butterflyfish
  • Fourspot Butterflyfish
  • Ornate Butterflyfish
  • Threadfin Butterflyfish
  • Racoon Butterflyfish
  • Reef Triggerfish
  • Highfin Chub
  • Blackside Hawkfish
  • Redbanded Hawkfish
  • White-Potted Sea Cucumber
  • Hawaiian Sergeant
  • Bullethead Parrotfish
  • Reef Lizardfish
  • Moorish Idol
  • Orangeband Surgeonfish
  • Achilles Tang
  • Convict Tang
  • Yellow Tang
  • Hawaiian Flagtail
  • Yellowfin Goatfish
  • Bluestripe Snapper
  • Bluefin Trevally
  • Bigeye Jack.

Enjoy Hawaii's Best Snorkeling Tour