Next to Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor, world famous Hanauma Bay is the most popular visitor attraction on Oahu. That is why it is not uncommon for new arrivals to request information on getting straight from Honolulu International Airport (HNL) to the ecological reserve, as a means to bide time before accommodation check-in and knock a key item off of their “to do” itinerary. Today, we are providing a succinct list of what you need to consider before finalizing your plans.
3 Things You Need to Know About Getting from Honolulu International Airport to Hanauma Bay
1. Best Way to Get from HNL to Hanauma Nature Preserve
The snorkeling mecca of Oahu is located within the island’s Hanauma Nature Preserve, just passed the census designated community of Hawaii Kai, at 7455 Kalanianaole Hwy. The preserve is open from 6 AM to 6 PM so it will certainly accommodate your early airport arrival. However, your biggest concern may not be about timing, but cost and all-around transportation efficiency. For starters, let’s look at the current pricing (at press) for Hanauma Bay:
- $7.50 general admission per person
- $20 standard snorkeling set / $40 premium set
- $1 parking (if applicable)
- $10 small locker / $12 large
- $1 tram ride to bay / $1.50 tram ride up
- Plus extra for refreshments and souvenirs
While prices help contribute to the maintenance of this important nature preserve, you can see that they will add up, especially when there are many people in your party. Because of this you need to keep your HNL to Hanauma Bay transportation expenses in check. Getting from the airport to this Hawaii Kai area destination by traditional taxi will excessively tax your wallet, and is not the best alternative. In addition, with a full party with luggage (including carry-ons) in tow you will probably not be able to take an UberX and have to opt for an UberXL, which inflates your cost. In fact, let’s take a look at a late AM commute via UberXL from HNL to the nature preserve:
As you can see, the cost of an UberXL during the common arrival window makes this option, not an option. View more on why you should only user Uber/Lyft after you’ve checked into your hotel, and not from HNL. What about a Hanauma Bay owned and operated shuttle? They provide round-trip transportation (for a $25 per person cost, gate entry not included) from Waikiki hotels to Hanauma Bay, but not from Honolulu Airport. Is a car rental worth considering? That depends if you’re up for the delay in getting your rental from HNL, then the nearly 18 mile drive in some of Honolulu’s worst traffic, along with the worry of whether or not you’ll find parking once you get to the nature preserve. Honestly, you should leave the rental for after you’ve checked in to your hotel.
Instead, the best and only reasonable option is a flat rate, direct, private shuttle that will scoop you up from baggage claim and take you directly to Hanauma Bay. For up to a party of four (and all common luggage) you will only pay a flat rate of $60. On your own that’s pretty cheap, and when sharing with a party of two, three, or four it gets even better.
2. The Bay May Take More Time Than You Think
As mentioned in the introduction, if you’re going from HNL straight to Hanauma Bay, then you’re probably doing so to spend time doing something fun before checking into your Waikiki (or other) accommodation at 3 PM. While this is a great idea, take note that the time at Hanauma Bay may take longer than you think.
This place gets busy. Depending upon when you arrive, you could be looking at a long line (10-15 minutes) to get through the admission gate. After that, allow 20-30 minutes to queue, wait and watch orientation video about how to protect and respect the reef and marine life within. Then you have to wait to get your snorkeling gear, and if taking the tram down (vs taking the 10 minute steep path) you can add on a few more minutes. And of course, you will want to allow 2-4 hours to soak it all in and enjoy. Lastly, you need to tack on time for your return back to the preserve’s common area, get cleaned up, eat a snack, and retreat from the masses.
If you were expecting a quick snorkel before checking into your hotel, this isn’t the place – it’s a full on “event” that you should allow plenty of time for. If you were hoping for a quick dip to see tropical fish (and maybe sea turtles) within close proximity of the airport (and your hotel) then you may want to save Hanauma Bay for another day and instead check out one of these convenient snorkeling spots. It’s your call of course, and we will help you get there no matter where you choose to go from the airport.
3. Don’t Go on Tuesday
Is it overcrowded? Always, but that’s not the reason to skip a visit on the second day of the week. Fish don’t work on Tuesdays? Nah, they put in their hours all day, everyday. Instead, it’s a simple answer – Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesday of each and every week for nature preserve maintenance and care, and to give marine life a breather. If you’re arriving on a Tuesday and want to kill time with a fun activity before your 3 PM hotel or vacation rental check-in, simply let us know that you’re interested in a custom island tour. Since you’re booking your HNL transfer anyways, you will end up saving money by packaging the airport pickup and tour into one. View more on our custom island tour options or simply contact us directly and toll free at 1.800.929.1219 and we can work with you to devise a custom tour option that suits you and your party’s interests and preferences.
~ ALOHA ~