After months of remaining closed, Hanauma Bay reopens with new restrictions aimed at maintaining improvements made during the pandemic. Fees at the nature preserve have also changed too.
As previously covered, the closure of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve back in March was a blessing for wildlife within the bay. The absence of people, numbering around 3,000 per day pre-pandemic, has been remarkable for environmental conditions. In fact, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, water in the bay is, on average, about 46% clearer than it was in 2019. What’s more, the amount and size of fish in the bay has increased dramatically, while more monk seals are lounging on the beach too. These conditions, by the way, haven’t been seen for 30 to 40 years, according to officials. So, naturally, scientists and officials alike want to maintain as much of this progress as possible. But, how do you do this while also welcoming back visitors?
Hanauma Bay Reopens with New Restrictions
Common sense says that, if the crush of people deteriorated conditions before, then limiting the number of visitors will curb environmental impacts. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Reopening this past Wednesday, December 2, Hanauma Bay now has a daily visitor cap of 720. That’s a 76% reduction in visitors in comparison to pre-pandemic days. What’s more, the city is reducing the bay’s hours of operations too. Visitors may only enter between 8 am and 2 pm and must leave by 4 pm. The bay is also closing one additional day per week, opening only Wednesday through Sunday going forward. The city is also banning all commercial activities, such as tour groups, at the bay. All of these changes will reduce annual visitor numbers from 840,000 to just 187,200.
Given that we’re still battling an ongoing pandemic, some temporary restrictions remain in place too. For example, the gift shop, education center, locker rental facilities, and all concessions must remain closed for now. Per county regulations, face masks are required at all times except when swimming. Social distancing guidelines also need to be observed.
As a reminder, entry and parking fees did increase for out-of-state visitors at Hanauma Bay. Standard admission is now $12, up from $7.50, while parking is now $3 instead of $1. Non-residents under the age of 13 and residents continue to enjoy complimentary access, while the resident parking rate remains $1. These changes are necessary, according to Mayor Caldwell, to offset the decrease in visitor limits.
Hanauma Bay Reopens with New Restrictions, Final Thoughts
It’s worth noting that these hours of operation and some of the restrictions are temporary and are part of a pilot program. The pilot is expected to last at least two months during which the city will collect data and feedback, and will make changes if necessary. However, I sincerely hope the capacity caps remain in place. We need to do what we can to protect the bay. After all, even if we ignore the environmental concerns, if it continues to degrade, Hanauma Bay will lose its appeal someday. So, protecting it benefits everyone – tourists, residents, and wildlife.