Popular Hawaii snorkel spot doubles entry fee for visitors

HONOLULU (AP) — The entrance fee for a popular Hawaii snorkeling spot will more than double for tourists starting this week.

Beginning Thursday, out-of-state visitors to the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in east Oahu will have to pay $25, up from $12. Entry will remain free for residents with valid identification, children 12 or younger regardless of residency and active-duty military members.

Parking rates will remain $1 per vehicle for locals and $3 per vehicle for non-locals.

Demand for entry has been high since Hanauma Bay reopened to the public in December after a nine-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic, Honolulu parks officials said.

When the park reopened, its water was 64% clearer than before the pandemic, Lisa Bishop, president of conservation group Friends of Hanauma Bay, said at the time.

“We saw how dramatically Hanauma Bay healed during the pandemic when access to the public was closed. We want to preserve the healing by minimizing human impacts, while at the same time ensuring that there are sufficient resources to maintain the bay and its facilities,” said Honolulu City Council Chairman Tommy Waters, who represents the district that includes the bay.

The city has tried to improve management of the bay since it reopened, including limiting entry and launching a ticketing and online reservation system.

The pandemic prompted a limit of 720 people per day, which has increased to about 1,600 with the loosening of virus-related restrictions, officials said.

Attendance hovered around roughly 3,000 visitors daily in 2019.

“Hanauma Bay is uniquely positioned to be an example of how we can better manage our natural resources as we rebound from the pandemic,” said Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation Director Laura H. Thielen.

All proceeds from entrance fees go to maintenance, education and research, city officials said.