City reopens Hanauma Bay with new restrictions and higher fees

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Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 at 2:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city reopened Hanauma Bay on Wednesday, but announced new restrictions aimed at ensuring the environmental gains the preserve made while it was shut down aren’t lost when residents and visitors return.

The bay, one of the most popular shoreline attractions on Oahu, has been closed since March.

During that time, researchers say, the water quality has improved significantly.

“The water clarity is 64 percent clearer than it ever was on every Tuesday, when it was closed to the public,” said Lisa Bishop, president of Friends of Hanauma Bay. “For the first time in over 40 years, there’s no sunscreen haze from chemical sunscreens on the water.”

Hanauma Bay Reopening Announcement

#LIVE: The city is announcing plans to reopen Hanauma Bay, which has been closed since the pandemic began in March. #HINews #HNN

Posted by Hawaii News Now on Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he doesn’t want those improvements to be lost with the bay’s reopening. He also noted it’s vital to ensure the attraction provides for social distancing.

“We believe it is safe as long as everyone follows the protocols,” Caldwell said.

Under the city’s reopening pilot program:

  • Just 720 people will be allowed at the preserve five days a week. That’s down from roughly 3,000 people a day before the pandemic.
  • The bay will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays, not just Tuesdays.
  • Visitors will be allowed in from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and must leave by 4 p.m.
  • Face mandates will be in effect.
  • All visitors will be required to watch the educational video before entering. Thirty people at a time will be allowed into the theater to watch the video.

Additionally, no commercial activities will be allowed to operate at the bay. And the gift shop, education center, food concession and locker rental facilities will remain closed for now.

“Taxis, shuttles, buses, tour operators, like sightseeing, snorkeling or scuba tours, will not be allowed to have access here, nor will the city bus come down here,” said Caldwell.

“We’re emphasizing as people come in that this place has had a rest, and that they do have a special responsibility to take care of it when they return to Hanauma Bay,” said Anna Rosa of the University of Hawaii Sea Grant program. “We want to make sure that we’re promoting stewardship of the environment.”

“Think about the old days, about three thousand (visitors) a day,” said Caldwell. “You’re about one-third of that, a little less. And I think that is a good balance for now, and in this pilot we’ll see how it works.

“COVID has been difficult for everybody around the world. But environmentally it’s been the best thing for Hanauma Bay in probably a hundred years,” Bishop said.

City officials said the pilot will likely last for at least two months. During that period, the city will gather feedback and determine if changes are needed.

Earlier in the year, the city raised fees for visiting the bay.

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