Rediscovering Oahu's Unmatched Travel Experience - P. 6


When the 15-minute video ended we exited the theater and opted to walk the third-mile asphalt driveway from the bluff down to the beach rather than taking one of the trams. We laid out our towels on a patch of grass shaded by a tall palm. About three or four hundred visitors were scattered along the half-mile expanse of white sand, with maybe a hundred more snorkeling. The bay was lively but peaceful and didn’t feel overcrowded.

As expected the sea was a bit choppy out beyond the coral reef which extends out about 150 yards. Virtually all the snorklers stayed well within the aqua-colored water of the reef though we did spot an occasional snorkeler venturing a few yards into the blue.

We rubbed some anti-fog gel on the inside lens of our masks and carried our gear out to the edge of the water before slipping into our fins. We stepped backward down into waist-deep water before turning and slipping in. The water was around 76 degrees and felt cool at first but became comfortable within minutes.

Restricted Access Hanauma Bay is the only beach on Oahu that strictly restricts access to control visitor impact on marine life.

We snorkeled out from the sand about twenty yards and found ourselves over the coral reef. We moved at a leisurely pace using slow, shallow flutters of our fins to propel us while using our arms for directional control and to signal to each other about the fish we began spotting as soon as we were over the coral.

Swimming with Fancy Fish

I’m no marine biologist but the fish I spotted included triggerfish or humu-humus — Hawaii’s state fish until recently — convict and yellow tangs, surgeonfish, butterfly fish, parrotfish, wrasse and needlefish. There were several other varieties of fish ranging in size from a few inches to maybe a foot-and-a-half in length. Unfortunately, the wave action made visibility poor that day. We could make out fish only up to about three feet. Beyond that everything blurred into gray — a sharp contrast from the vibrant aqua and blue that prevailed above the surface.

Even the small waves that made it onto the coral area were disruptive enough to force us to clear our snorkels with a couple of sharp breaths out every five or six breaths. We were also forced to maneuver around patches of coral that rose too close to the surface for fear of being raked over it by the waves. Those factors added considerably to the effort level. After about a half hour we moved back toward the beach for a break. By that time we also needed to drink some fresh water to wash the salt water out of our mouths and dilute all the salt that had seeped into our systems.

By the end of our second half-hour snorkel, I was satisfied that I had seen just about every variety of fish at Hanauma Bay and retired to enjoy the sun and scenery from our towels under the palms. For lunch one of us went back up the hill to the only snack bar in the Bay and bought sandwiches to eat on the beach. They were surprisingly good for beach food. Our teen took another long tour around the entire Bay, without her flippers this time. After a brief rest she went back out again for a leisurely swim sans snorkeling gear.

By around 3 pm the steady flow of visitors coming down the driveway had thinned to a trickle. More people were leaving than arriving. It would have been a good time to get to Hanauma Bay. We probably stayed about an hour or two longer than most visitors. It was nearly four when we decided our teen, tired and happy, decided she had enough water and salt.

On the drive back to Waikiki I exited the H1 freeway onto Kapiolani Boulevard. After we were forced to pass several intersections with blocked left turns did I remember that the city blocks off left turns during the morning and evening rush hours. We had to drive past Kalakaua to the Keeaumoku Street in Ala Moana before making a series of right turns to get back onto Kapiolani going east toward Waikiki, then onto Kalakaua to the Hyatt Regency.

Regency Club Cordials

After showers and a brief rest, we went down to the Regency Club. The evening service is billed as “cordials” but is really a dinner buffet of many small plates, complete with an assortment of beef, pork, chicken and vegetarian delectables, as well as salads, soups and rolls. You couldn’t find a more tempting dinner in all of Waikiki, we decided.

We too our plates out onto the balcony between two roaring lava firepits and sank into oversized leather armchairs. As we ate we gazed out across the water as the day bled into the rich reds and purples of a tropical sunset. Rising up from the unseen street below were the sounds of revelers looking ahead to an evening in one of the world’s most enchanted beach districts.

“This is the best dinner spot in Waikiki,” we told one another, smiling at the moment’s sheer perfection.

The friendly male staffer advised us that a special dessert would be set out at 7:30. We were sorely tempted but we were too eager to head down to Kalakaua to wait another half hour. But we promised to return to check on leftovers.

Even after having spent the afternoon at Hanauma Bay, we were irresistibly lured by the crash of waves along the dark shore and the waterside tiki torches of the Moana Surfrider, the Outrigger and the Sheraton Royal Hawaiian. One of the liveliest spots in Waikiki is Duke’s, a restaurant and bar on the beach side of the Outrigger. It’s also a great place to use the restroom if the urge strikes during an evening stroll along Waikiki Beach.

Past Duke’s and most of the Royal Hawaiian the erosion has narrowed the beach so much that the Sheraton Waikiki and the Halekulani have built a retaining wall along the seaward edge of their grounds. As we continued our stroll along the top of the retaining wall aggressive waves sent up sprays up to cool our legs. Past the tiki torches of the Royal Hawaiian we could start to see the greenish glow given off by the offshore breakers from the density of phosphorescent plankton in those warm waters. They soak up sunlight during the day at reradiate it in darkness, adding to the enchantment of Waikiki beach after dark.

By the time we passed the Halekulani, we began to feel the fatigue of the past two days and decided we might be able to walk back to the hotel in time to catch some of the dessert that had been promised. We got back just in time to get the last few pieces of a fruit cobbler which we ate siting out on the balcony. Even at that hour the air was as loving as ever.


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