Everyone knows about Hanauma Bay. If you google “snorkeling in Oahu, Hawaii” Hanauma Bay is everywhere. TripAdvisor, USA Today Travel section, snorkel guide websites, travel blogs… But you know what that means right? That’s right- CROWDED. If you try to visit an hour after opening, there will probably be no parking available. If you do manage to find parking and walk down to the beach, you’ll be snorkeling right alongside strangers. Strangers who didn’t pay attention to the informational video that you’re required to watch prior to snorkeling. Strangers who carelessly stomp on reef and attempt to touch the turtles.
But I digress. 😉
I want to tell you a little secret.
There is a hike above Hanauma Bay— a well paved trail that wraps around the bay. At the highest point, there is a small trail facing the ocean which will lead you to amazing rock formation and a rock bridge. The trick is all of the steepness, crumbling rocks, and multiple trails that can lead you astray.
So how do you get there?
You’re in the right place. I’ll give you step-by-step directions. Are you ready?
As you walk on the nicely paved trail up and around Hanauma Bay, you’ll see an obvious dirt trail to your left. You won’t miss it- fairly large dirt trail that’ll lead you down a steep hill. Follow the trail down.. and eventually it’ll turn into loose rocks/gravel, so watch your step. Wear shoes with good traction or you’ll go sliding down, down, down. Once you get to the bottom, it levels out a bit and the trail once again appears. The trail separates into left and right– We went left (seemed easier). I also got some awesome pictures of the sunrise over the ocean so I think I made the right (left) choice. You’ll soon come across another hill (not as big). Climb the hill up— and then climb the hill back down. When you climb over this particular hill, you’ll be greeted with an ‘out of the world’ view of safari-like trees. I felt like I was in Lion King. Which also meant I wasn’t going straight through that congregation of safari trees (and probably lions). We went left, again. I walked around those safari trees and came across another (smaller) hill. Climb up this small hill and you’ll see the vast ocean in front of you. The trail continues on to the right— but walk straight down the cliff instead. Watch your footing– it’s all rocks and you have to make a few (small) jumps down these huge rocks. You won’t see the rock bridge from the top, but you will see a large flat rock at the bottom. If you don’t see this ginormous flat rock in the ocean, don’t climb down. You messed up somewhere, backtrack, ask fellow hikers.
You’ll be tempted to stand on top of the rock bridge, thinking it might be a cool photo op. I can’t stress this enough: BE CAUTIOUS. The waves are powerful here and those strong waves frequently wash away the bridge, washing away anything and anyone standing on top of it. It is dangerous. To be frank, you could die- that is a possibility. So please, please, be careful.
Now that you’ve heard the warning, here’s the good part:
SUNRISE. It is absolutely breathtaking. Koko Head Hike (another popular choice for sunrise) is great, but this sunrise you can have all to yourself with a marvelous background.
Unique hike with beautiful views, variety of sceneries, and interesting rock formations. One of my favorite hikes. But remember to respect mother nature and the ‘āina. Aloha!