Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay on Memorial Day 2012

To me, holidays are all about fun, food, and friends. Memorial Day 2012 was no exception. A handful of close friends and I made our way to the most popular snorkeling spot on the island of Oahu – Hanauma Bay. The bay is the neighbor to what a friend of mine has called “The Stairway to Hell.” That stairway being the tracks at Koko Crater. As we were driving to Hanauma, we noticed that a lot of people were climbing up and down the Koko Crater tracks. From a distance, the little humans specks could be seen making their way to the top of the crater. Hanauma Bay was busy as well. Fortunately for us, security re-opened the gates to the parking just as we approached the entrance and quickly closed the entrance off not too long after we entered. Yes, our hunt for fish was on.

Joel getting wet. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Ahnate getting wet.

Inspecting a shallow reef section. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

45% Water, 45% Sky, 10% Joel. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Whenever I plan a day at Hanauma Bay, I am sure that someone brings a box of manapua from Royal Kitchen. Amongst our friends, Royal Kitchen manapua is required eating whenever snorkeling is to be done at Hanauma. That’s just how it is. Monette is the friend that has (un)officially been assigned as the manapua harvester. With that said, when I reminded her of her manapua duties that morning, I had asked if she in return had any requests. Of course, she had a very specific request of strawberry Diamond Head soda. The Strawberry Diamond Head soda ended up being the first adventure of the day.

Before we headed for Hanauma, we made a stop at the new super large Safeway on Beretania for some fresh poke. Hey, Safeway actually has some good poke! Being a holiday, I wasn’t surprised that the poke prices were outrageous. How outrageous? Try $18.99 for a pound of spicy ahi poke. Yikes! We ended up getting some spicy ahi, salmon, and oyster sauce ahi. Yes, we love our raw fish. It turned out that the trickiest part would be finding Monette’s strawberry Diamond Head soda. Since Safeway had none, we decided to check the 7-11 down the street. No strawberry Diamond Head soda at the 7-11 either. Third time was a charm though, as we found a six pack at the nearby Foodland. Now our Hanauma Bay adventures could officially begin.

Hey, look at that! Palm Trees. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The much sought after strawberry Diamond Head Soda. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Royal Kitchen Manapua. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Spicy Ahi Poke. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Stop. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Contemplation. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

It was straight from the parking lot to the bay for us. There was no need to watch the instructional video prior to heading down since we still had about a month left on our one year pass [1]. The first thing that we noticed when we reached the shore was the Hawaiian monk seal that was sunbathing just in front of one of the lifeguard stations. He was huge and definitely a novelty for many of the tourists that were there.

I had my hands on a Royal Kitchen manapua a few moments after we chose our spot and spread out our beach towels. My cravings for these manapuas were strong on this day. I scarfed down two baked char siu manapuas before jumping into the water.

It was a nice day. The water wasn’t as calm as it usually is on a typical summer day, but hey, at least it wasn’t cloudy and raining. Despite the water being a bit choppy, the fish were still there chomping on the coral. We saw a variety of fish, including butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, surgeon fish, moorish idol, tang, wrasse, cardinal fish, squirrel fish, big eyes, perch, chub, trigger fish, and Humuhumunukunukuapuaa. We even spotted an eel, which was a ร‚ย first for us at Hanauma Bay. Unfortunately, Joel did not have a turtle sighting this time around. We saw fish. Joel got a sunburn. We ate good food. And good times were had by all.

Explorers: Monette Galario, Coty Gonzales, Ahnate Lim, and Joel Sabugo.

Royal Kitchen
Chinatown Cultural Plaza
100 N Beretania St, Ste 175
Honolulu, HI 96817

Underwater. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

We spotted a cool eel. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Going into hiding. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

School of fish. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Ahnate in search of fish. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Blue fish. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Best friends. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Still exploring. Photo by Coty Gonzales.


1. If this is your first time to Hanauma Bay, then be sure to register your name after watching the instructional video. This will allow you to bypass watching the video the next time that you visit the bay. This will save you up to 45 minutes of wait time. The pass will last for a period of 1 year.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.

7 comments

  1. What the heck?!?!! a) how did your pics come out so clear? b) when did Ahnate get there? c) why didn’t we follow you to that badass eel?!?! d) I’ll send you the pic I have of the lumpiest monk seal ever if you’re interested ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Lexi!!! a) I was probably just lucky, 2) Ahnate showed up a little after you and John left. c) The badass eel was awesome! We followed him around for a bit. d) And I can’t believe that I failed to take a pic of that monk seal – send me your photo!

      Are you and John ready for the Challenge Nation Scavenger Hunt?! What should we use as costumes???

  2. Awesome pics! I wish I was there to see the eel. Manapua on the beach must’ve been so good!!!

    • It was a fun time, Mark! You missed out! A baby turtle popped up in front of Joel the last time we were there. We also had a cooler of ice cold Coca-Cola ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Thanks for sharing with us Coty! Seems like great times! Found these guys from Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Tours (hoptours) and they took us from the hotel for snorkeling adventures and scuba diving. I will never forget that vacation! Thanks for bringing back my memories! ๐Ÿ™‚

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