Home Destinations 15 Essential Things to Know Before Going to Hanauma Bay, Oahu
Hanauma Bay Oahu

15 Essential Things to Know Before Going to Hanauma Bay, Oahu

by Family Globetrotters

Hanauma Bay Is the Best Snorkelling Experience in Oahu. Here Are Some Essential Things to Know Before Going to Hanauma Bay to Ensure It Will Be An Awesome Day Out for The Family.

Upon researching what to do in Oahu with kids, Hanauma Bay constantly came up as a must do activity in Hawaii. So of course, we had to put it on our list and boy, are we glad we did. Hanauma Bay snorkelling became one of our top favourite things to do in Oahu and as our first family snorkelling experience together, we couldn’t have picked a better spot. The view from the top is simply stunning, the water is crystal clear despite so many people in the bay and the marine life and coral reef are so beautiful. But, there are a few essential things to know before going to Hanauma Bay to ensure that you have an incredible experience.

#01 – HOW TO GET TO HANAUMA BAY

How to Get to Hanauma Bay by Car

Hanauma Bay is an easy drive from Honolulu. Take the H1 Freeway out of Waikiki until it becomes the Kalanianaole Highway. Drive for about 10 miles and you’ll see the entrance to Hanauma Bay on the top of the hill just past the city of Hawaii Kai.

The car park is fairly big however it still fills out very quickly. When we drove past it at 08.30am on a Saturday, the car park was already full. When the car park is full, you can’t even enter the space to drive around until you find a spot. You actually have to turn around and leave. When we arrived around noon on a weekday however, the parking lot was open albeit looking rather full. The cost of parking is only USD$1.00.

How to Get to Hanauma Bay by Uber/Taxi

The costs from Waikiki is approximately USD$40.00 each way. Advantage is you get there quickly and you don’t have to worry about parking.

How to Get to Hanauma Bay by Public Transport

For USD$5.50 per adult and USD$2.75 per child, you can get a full day ticket to catch the bus. Route #22 will get you directly to Hanauma Bay. Although it stops in the middle of Kalakaua Avenue, I don’t suggest you catch it from there because by that time, the bus was already full and its very squashed stand up room only. And that makes for a very long journey especially for the kids.

We caught the bus one stop back on Kalakaua Avenue, opposite Olohana Street. This is the first stop of this route. We got there 30 minutes early (only because we were disorganised) but it turned out to be a fruitful exercise as we got on the bus first and there was plenty of seats. At 5 minutes to the departure time, there was a very long queue and the bus was already full with standing room only. So get there early!

Hanauma Bay bus stop

Waiting Patiently To Catch The Bus From Hanauma Bay to Waikiki Beach.

How to Get to Hanauma Bay by Shuttle Bus

If you don’t wish to have the hassle of catching the bus there is a shuttle that leaves Waikiki daily. The cost is USD$25.00 which includes a shuttle pick up and drop off and the hire of fins, masks and snorkels and you can book online. The only disadvantage is that you are limited in the amount of time of 3.5 hours at the bay as the times are fixed.

Shuttle times are as follows for pick up from Waikiki and the return time from Hanauma Bay:

  • 6:00am to 9:30am
  • 7:15am to 11:45am
  • 8:45am to 1:15pm
  • 10:15am to 2:45pm

#02 – HANAUMA BAY HOURS

Hanauma Bay is open from 06.00am to 06.00pm.

Tuesday. Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesday! We very nearly made that mistake! Phew.

It is also closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

#03 – TICKETS FOR HANAUMA BAY

The entry into the state park is USD$7.50 per adult and children 12 and under are free. Before you are permitted into down on the bay, you must watch a short video about Hanauma Bay and as a visitor what we are permitted and not permitted to do.

The theatre times are allocated so when you buy your park entrance fee, you are presented with a ticket with a time. You have to make your way to the theatre at the appointed time. This way it regulates the number of people moving down to the bay at any given time and so that everyone can fit in the theatre.

If you intend on retuning to Hanauma Bay within the year, you can sign your name on a list at the information booth, so you don’t have to watch the video again.

#04 – HOW TO GET DOWN TO HANAUMA BAY

After watching the video, you will be directed to exit on the left. From here you will be able to make your way down to the bay. You have 2 options.

Walk Down to Hanauma Bay

Its easy enough to do so unless you’re lugging a whole bunch of stuff and you have young kids. Also, this is the best spot to take a picture of the bay.

Hanauma Bay Walk

Nice And Easy Walk Down To Hanuama Bay.

Take the Tram to Hanuama Bay

There is a which can transport you to and from the bay. It costs USD$1.25 per person down and USD$1.25 per person up. We took the tram up as that was way too steep a walk for us and well, we were lazy! Make sure you have cash though because that’s the only payment option available.

Hanauma Bay Tram

We Didn’t Take the Tram Down But We Did Take the Tram Up!

Hanauma Bay Tram Prices

Rip Off? Possibly But We Were So Tired That Steep Climb Up Wasn’t Gonna Happen!

#05 – CAN I BUY FOOD & DRINKS AT HANAUMA BAY?

There is only one snack outlet in Hanauma Bay so if you intend on getting some hot food, snacks or drinks, please do so BEFORE you get your entry tickets as you need to be at the theatre at the allotted time. Also, the snack outlet is near the entry and is nowhere close to the bay so if you’re suddenly hungry it’s a very long and steep walk back up to get something to eat.

You can of course bring your own food and drinks.

#06 – SNORKEL HIRE AT HANAUMA BAY

You can hire snorkels sets down at the bay. A deposit of some kind is required of which we gave them our Driver’s License. Children’s sizes are available at the same price as adults. Prices of the snorkel hire at Hanauma Bay is as follows:

  • Standard snorkel set: USD$20.00
  • Premium snorkel set: USD$40.00
  • Prescription Mask: For the nearsighted with strengths measuring from -2 to -8 and includes your snorkel – add USD$3.00 for the snorkel set.

Quick Tip #1 – Beginner Snorkelers

Hannah had never been snorkelling before so we practised in the pool at home for a few weeks. Using it for the first time in open water with currents is not a good idea.

Quick Tip #2 –  How to Put Fins on In the Water

As you’re putting the fins on in shallow water, it is awkward to walk in. As you put it on, walk out into the water backwards so you’re not tripping over on your own feet.

Quick Tip #3 – How to Save Money on Snorkel Set

If you intend on snorkelling during your holiday, rent a snorkel set for a week from any of the rental places on Oahu. It’ll save you a ton of money.

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Hanauma Bay Oahu Girl Snorkeling

It Was A Hot Day and We Were Looking Forward to Getting Into That Glorious Water!

#07 – LOCKERS AT HANAUMA BAY

Lockers are available for you to you if you wish.

  • Small locker: Enough to fit keys, phone and wallet. USD$8.00
  • Large locker: Big enough to fit a backpack. USD$10.00

#08 – REEF SAFE SUNSCREEN IN HAWAII

May 2018, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to pass legislation banning sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which destroy coral reefs. Use a water-resistant as it washes off your body when swimming and enters the marine environment. You are also encouraged to use creams instead of sprays as the spray also ends up on the sand which at high tide gets washed out into the ocean resulting in additional contamination.

As we visited in July 2018, we were prepared to buy the proper sunscreen in Hawaii. However, all stores selling sunscreen still had all the spray versions and the normal sunscreens we are used to using. At Hanauma Bay, no one was regulating sunscreen use. So at this stage, it would seem it is a slow transition to outright bans. To assist with the environment however, we did purchase the recommended Hawaiian Sol SPF 50+.

Reef safe sunscreen hawaii

People Were Encouraged To Throw Away Their Non Safe Sunscreen In Exchange For Buying One At A Discounted Price.

#09 – DO I NEED REEF SHOES IN HANAUMA BAY?

Reef shoes are not required as you’re not allowed to touch let alone walk on the reef anyway. And the bay is sandy and there are no rocks to worry about.

#10 – DO I NEED TO BE A GOOD SWIMMER?

Unbeknownst to most, the bay is subjected to strong currents and rips. Unlike Waimea Bay where the water is calm and resembles a huge swimming pool, Hanauma Bay isn’t. There are plenty of signs warning beach goers that if you’re not a good swimmer, don’t venture into the water snorkelling. When we were further out, the currents were pretty strong, and we were swept around a fair bit.

At around 3pm, we were provided with a warning that the tides were coming in and to be aware that water levels were rising and to get out of the water if you weren’t a strong swimmer. A reminder again that flotation devices are not available for rent.

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Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Oahu

Lots of Snorkelers and The Currents Are Deceiving.

#11 – MARINE LIFE AND CORAL REEF

You are not permitted by law to touch, walk or mistreat any of the coral reef or animals in the water. This is a protected marine park, and everyone is responsible for the conservation of this area.

#12 – LITTER ETIQUETTE

Please take all rubbish with you before leave the park.

#13 – BRING YOUR GO PRO

If you have a Go Pro, this is the best time to use it. We managed to get some wonderful footage of our snorkelling experience. The water was so clear despite the currents washing over us all the time. I saw a lot of people taking their smartphones in waterproof housings but I’m not sure how well that worked. Andrew loves swimming to the bottom of the ocean so that wouldn’t have worked for us!

Heading to Hanauma Bay for some snorkelling fun? Be sure to check out 15 Essential Things to Know Before Going to Hanauma Bay. #oahusnorkeling #hanaumabay #hawaiicoralreef Click To Tweet

#14 – WHAT TO PACK FOR HANAUMA BAY

Pack the usual things you would bring to a beach. Shaded areas are few and far between so slip slop slap! A reminder that you do need to walk down a fairly steep walkway so probably best not to overdo it. And if you’re going to be snorkelling the whole time like we did, you may not need some of the normal things you bring to a beach e.g. beach chairs.

#15 – PRAM AND WHEELCHAIR ACCESS

Hanauma Bay is accessible by wheelchair and prams. You can opt to take the tram service between the upper and lower levels which has a dedicated space for wheelchairs and prams.

Beach wheel chairs are available for free. The volunteers at Hanauma Bay will be able to get it for you.

And there you have it! All 15 essential things you need to know before going to Hanauma Bay. Follow our tips and I can assure you and your family will have a hassle-free experience. We would go back in a heartbeat and we highly recommend this be a top thing to do in Oahu with kids!

BONUS TIP #1 – RELATED ARTICLES

14 Things To Know Before Visiting Pearl Harbor in Oahu

Top 50 Things to Do in Oahu With Kids

13 Things to Know Before Hiking to Manoa Falls, Oahu

BONUS TIP #2 – WHERE TO STAY IN OAHU

Oceanfront Resort: Outrigger Waikiki Beach
Located directly on Waikiki Beach, this is one of Oahu’s favourite resort. It also features ocean front restaurants and pool which puts you and your family right in the midst of all the Waikiki action. Free child-friendly Hawaiian cultural activities are offered daily and may include fresh flower lei-making or ukulele lessons. Should you be renting a car the hotel offers valet parking whilst they can also arrange for your airport transfers. The Outrigger Waikiki Beach has so much to offer, you may not even need to leave but with so many things to do in Oahu with kids, we certainly hope you’ll explore the island!
Book Now Pay Later – Check Prices Here

Resort in the North Shore: Turtle Bay Resort
If you’re thinking of staying away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, you might like to consider staying in the North Shore. The Turtle Bay Resort is a world class golf resort suitable for families and is only a 5-minute walk from the beach. All their rooms offer ocean views and they have rooms with 2 queen beds so perfect for families of four. Guests are also privy to the resort’s private beach area which is perfect for those wanting a quieter space for the kids. They have a wellness center, access to a plethora of activities for kids including horse riding, wind surfing and fishing as well as ample parking for those renting a car. If you have enough time you might even want to split your holiday between the north and the south.
Book Now Pay Later – Check Prices Here

Apartment – Ilikai Condo Rental
Family Globetrotters recently stayed at the Ilikai and loved it! We stayed on the 19th floor and had beautiful views of the marina with the lagoon and Waikiki beach to the left. Waikiki Beach is only a couple of minutes’ walk from the apartment and literally half the price of the central beach front hotels on Waikiki. It is also close to the lagoon for those who have babies. Located next to the Hilton, we could see the Friday night fireworks whilst it is also of close proximity to the Ala Moana Shopping Centre. We always prefer to stay in apartments with a fully equipped kitchen and a lounge space for the family. The balcony is a good size from which we had breakfast every day.
Book Now Pay Later – Check Prices Here

Mid-Priced Hotel – Pagoda Hotel
Finding cheap accommodation in Honolulu is not an easy task. The Pagoda Hotel in downtown Honolulu is a 2-star property and does not have beach front. It is however comfortable and accessible Oahu’s premiere shopping and local dining district. The hotel offers rooms with 2 double beds so a good option for families without having to pay for a second room. They also have a renovated pool & sun deck for lounging.
Book Now Pay Later – Check Prices Here

 

 

15 Essential Things to Know Before Going to Hanauma Bay

 

Disclaimer: The Family Globetrotter’s website contains affiliate links which help us to maintain this blog and assists us with our travels, at no extra cost to you. Family Globetrotters have also posted articles based on sponsored products and/or services, but all opinions are our own, truthful and unbiased.

36 comments

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Arlene May 24, 2019 - 3:14 am

Do we need to tip the Hanauma Bay shuttle driver?

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Family Globetrotters May 24, 2019 - 3:16 pm

Hey Arlene. We took public transport instead of paying for the shuttle but the answer would be yes. It is customary to do so. About $1 to $2 will suffice.

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Parnashree Devi December 22, 2018 - 1:11 am

Thank you for introducing me to this place called Hanauma Bay. You have given some pro tips and its is certainly helpful. From transportation , food to stay …You have covered everything in this post. Though I am not a snorkeling person, but this is quite handy for my friends who are too much into it.

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Family Globetrotters December 27, 2018 - 10:51 am

You welcome! You don’t have to be a snorkeler to enjoy this beautiful bay. The water of the shore is very shallow so you can walk or even just sit in the water as you watch your friends snorkel. Its a great place for people of all ages.

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Archana Singh December 20, 2018 - 11:59 pm

I didn’t even know about this place’s existence. looks like a great family place. I loved how you shared all the details, including the public transport timings. This will come very handy for someone planning a trip to Hanauma Bay.

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Family Globetrotters December 21, 2018 - 10:35 am

Thanks Archana! Well we were so confused by the public transport getting there that I had to share. In the end it wasn’t so hard at all but for some reason we had trouble at the beginning. It was a great day out!

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Arnav Mathur December 20, 2018 - 2:14 pm

I am more of a scuba diving person, but I love snorkelling when there is no other alternative. Incidentally today morning only I stumbled across an article related to the depletion of coral reefs due to the excess of sunscreen caused by over tourism at Hananuma Bay, which is why I loved it when I came across the point of using reef safe sunscreens. Well done.

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Family Globetrotters December 21, 2018 - 10:24 am

Hey Arnav! Wish I could scuba dive but medically I am not lowed so I have to settle for snorkelling. Yes, as a tourist myself, I felt like I was contributing to the depletion of the coral reefs. I use to live near the Great Barrier Reef and issues with the reef dying has been on my mind for many years. Using coral reef safe sunscreen plays a tiny part in trying to preserve the area. And its such an easy thing to change.

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Daniel December 19, 2018 - 7:09 pm

I visited Hawaii several times before and I must say this is one of the few posts that I actually enjoyed while reading. This is an excellent post with all the information people need to know before heading to Hanauma Bay. Your photographs look absolutely marvelous too. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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Family Globetrotters December 21, 2018 - 10:19 am

Oh thank you Daniel! I take that as a huge compliment! Did you visit Hanauma Bay when you were in Hawaii?

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Laura Pedlar December 19, 2018 - 6:43 pm

This is an excellent blog post with a great deal of information that is perfect for anyone planning to visit Hanauma Bay. I snorkelled in Maui and really enjoyed it, so I can see how this is a great thing to do in Hawaii. I liked that’s you even mentioned about wearing the correct sunscreen to protect the reef.

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Family Globetrotters December 21, 2018 - 10:18 am

Oh I’d love to go to Maui one day! Interesting that there are things on Oahu that can’t be done in Maui and vice versa. That only makes it more exciting to visit both islands. Yup, reef safe sunscreen is now a prevalent topic and we intend to try and uphold that as much as possible.

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Leah December 19, 2018 - 6:18 pm

I was excited to read your post, as we are planning a family trip to Oahu for 2019! I loved all the details you included, and it’s great to know that it is pram/stroller accessible. It looks beautiful, so I will definitely add it to our itinerary.

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Family Globetrotters December 21, 2018 - 10:17 am

That’s awesome Leah! Yes, definitely add it onto your itinerary. You won’t regret it. If you’re going to use your pram, its ok to head down the hill to the bay but when you come back up, its a pretty steep walk so do yourself a favour, pay for the trolley and put the stroller on it. You’ll thank me afterwards. LOL!

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Anjali W December 19, 2018 - 3:55 pm

Hanauma Bay seems like a wonderful place to spend a family vacation at. The place has a gorgeous landscape. I would love to go for snorkeling there and would be extra careful since I am not a good swimmer. Your post is also very informative in terms to how we can reach there and where we can plan our stay. Surely bookmarking it for my future reference.

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Family Globetrotters December 19, 2018 - 4:29 pm

Awesome Anjali! If you’re not a strong swimmer, stick close to the where the life guars are and don’t swim out too deep. But that’s the best part of Hanauma Bay. You only need to walk out to knee deep and you’ll have fish swim all around you.

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Debjani lahiri December 18, 2018 - 6:05 pm

Wow the part where I came to know that the state has banned the use of sunscreens was really top notch in terms of taking a step ahead to protect the marine life for danger of chemicals. And Hanauma Bay definitely looks much fun for the family trip. I being a solo traveler I would also enjoy there to the fullest.

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Family Globetrotters December 19, 2018 - 9:32 am

I totally agree. As a state that probably has the highest consumption of sunscreen, that is a bold step. The mindset change is slow, particularly seeing that there are so many travellers who go there but it is working and a great step towards marine conservation.

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Shreya Saha December 18, 2018 - 4:37 am

Hanauma Bay looks completely fun for families with kids. I have never been to Hawaii but this seems really interesting. However I hope I can enjoy snorkeling with my partner too in those clear waters of the bay. Plus you have nicely stated how to reach the place and where to stay. Hanauma Bay is definitely in my list.

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Family Globetrotters December 18, 2018 - 2:12 pm

Hanauma Bay is simple a must for anyone of any ages if you’re ever in Oahu. Such a beautiful place to go snorkelling and just to be so close to nature.

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Allison Judkins November 7, 2018 - 3:40 am

This article was extremely helpful. I’m planning to visit Hawaii (Oahu especially) next year and I feel you just planned my whole trip. I love that you highlighted the transportation aspect. That’s always a challenge for me.

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Family Globetrotters December 13, 2018 - 10:51 am

Ahhh so jealous you’re going! We didn’t get enough of the place and was so much fun. Yup, if you go to Oahu you must visit Hanauma Bay. Bookmark this page so you can refer to it later. I promise its all you need to know for an outing there!

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Clarice Lao / Camping for Women October 30, 2018 - 1:42 am

Woah! This is breathtaking. I had been to Hawaii a couple of times but via a cruise and we really did not have enough time to explore the place.

The Hanauma Bay is a must-visit. Saving your post for future reference. It is very detailed and helpful. Thank you for sharing!

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Family Globetrotters December 13, 2018 - 10:49 am

Oh thank you! I’d love to do a cruise that stops by Hawaii. How much would that be! Well yes, if ever you stop by again, a trip there is well worth it.

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Manjulika Pramod October 29, 2018 - 4:35 am

Thank you for this virtual trip to Hanauma Bay. It was very helpful to learn how one can travel through different means. It looks easily accessible from the neighboring places. The pictures are lovely and it definitely looks like a must-go place for snorkeling.

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Family Globetrotters December 13, 2018 - 10:48 am

Definitely a must visit place, even if you don’t snorkel. The bay is stunning and one of Oahu’s gem.

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Jen October 28, 2018 - 2:33 pm

We’re heading to Oahu this winter with our kids. We’ve been to Hanauma Bay before we had kids, so I never viewed it through that lens. I’m pretty sure our youngest couldn’t snorkel, but they still might enjoy being there. Do you recommend it for non-snorkeling kids?

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Family Globetrotters December 13, 2018 - 10:47 am

Hey Jen! Absolutely! There were plenty of people there who didn’t snorkel as the beach is also lovely. Also the water is quite shallow for quite a bit for a good spot for just sitting and wading. My daughter had fish swimming past her legs at knee deep so your little one can still enjoy the bay. Just whack a pair of swimming goggles on so they can dip their head in the water. You should go back. At least your older kids can enjoy snorkelling?

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Abhinav Singh October 27, 2018 - 6:54 pm

I am a Snorkelling fan. I had no idea that you can do it in Oahu as well! I like that walk down to the Hanauma Bay. Good to see that they have lockers available. Making it wheelchair and pram friendly is very thoughtful. Free wheelchair is a very good idea.

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Family Globetrotters December 13, 2018 - 10:45 am

Oh if you love snorkelling then you must visit one day. Absolutely stunning place and easily accessible.

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Amar Singh October 27, 2018 - 6:18 pm

Wow what a great place to visit with the entire family and must say very picturesque. Hanuma Bay seems like a good place to not just snorkel but enjoy the pleasant beaches and a comple chilled day bu the sea. Easily accessible by shuttle bus so you can use public transport and not have to drive. Thanks for sharing a great place and one I would live to visit some day.

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Family Globetrotters December 13, 2018 - 10:44 am

Thanks Amar! It is exactly as you have said. So even if you’re not a snorkeler it is worth a visit. You can just stand in the water at knee deep and still see all the fish as they swim past you. Glorious place.

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Ambica Gulati October 27, 2018 - 3:54 pm

What a good guide. You have given all the info that any tourist would need. And the place looks so amazing.

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Family Globetrotters December 13, 2018 - 10:43 am

Thanks Ambica! Glad you thought it would be helpful:)

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William R. Parks October 11, 2018 - 10:22 pm

What a great post, interesting and informative detail and your photographs are great – I enjoyed reading this!

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Family Globetrotters October 12, 2018 - 8:04 am

Thank you William! Glad you enjoyed it. We had such an amazing time:)

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