Hanauma Bay has long been considered one of the gems the island of Oahu boasts. For thousands of years now, the bay has been a part of the lives of native Hawaiians. Although many call the beach and surrounding natural park Hanauma Bay, to the natives it is simply Hanauma, a name derived from two Hawaiian words ?hana? which means bay and ?uma? which means curved, the bay?s shape. However, it is also noteworthy to mention that there are many folktales about how the curved bay acquired its name. Historically, the bay was an important place for Hawaiian royalties who often stayed there for entertainment, relaxation and fishing.
Hanauma Bay is a phenomenal marine embayment that has naturally formed within a volcanic opening. A volcanic burst of activity on the island occurred tens of thousands of years ago forming the crater on the sea floor, and waves from the ocean eventually filled the circular bay.
Underwater the Hanauma Bay, portions of the reef were cleared with the use of dynamite to provide a room for transoceanic telephone cables during its setup in the 1950s. Some of these underwater telephone cables can still be seen today and the section where these are located is called the ?Cable Channel?. The blasting from this activity created swimming areas.
The Hanauma Bay is the first of its kind established in the State of Hawaii to become both a Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District. It was known before as the Hanauma Bay Beach Park and overtime, along with the changes in the bay, its name has changed to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. As a marine protected area, visitors are prohibited by law from harming sea animals or from walking, touching as well as having contact with coral heads, which can be tempting since these corals look like large rocks on the ocean floor.
Thanks to the preservation efforts to the bay, the Hanauma has been a nursery ground for the immature turtles, which have their nesting grounds at French Frigate Shoals. The bay is also known for its abundance of Green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas (locally known as Honu) and parrotfish.
The Hanauma Bay beach and reef became more accessible to tourists after constructing a road along the bay?s corner of Oahu. Few other amenities soon flourished in the surrounding. Since most of the Hanauma Bay is designated as protected areas, the City of Oahu cleared more areas in the reef for swimming and put up an additional parking lot in 1967. Along with this, the authorities in the bay shipped in white sand from the North Shore, attracting more visitors to the bay.
However, in the 1990s, the beach and surrounding area of the Hanauma have been overused and to limit its use, measures were taken such as limiting visitor access. Tourists can only park in the parking lot and when it?s full, everyone after was turned away. Eventually, in 1998, an entrance fee was charged further reducing the number of visitors.
Since August 2002 until today, visitors to the Hanauma Bay must pass by the Marine Education Center at the entrance to watch a short film and to receive instruction about conservation of the Bay?s resources. An average of 3000 visitors a day (except on Tuesdays to allow uninterrupted feeding of the fish) or nearly a million visitors a year, majority of which are tourists, are enjoying the splendor of the Hanauma Bay.