VERONICA CARMONA / COURTESY OF ISLAND HERITAGE
Hanauma Bay's status as Hawaii's first Marine Life Conservation District has allowed it to remain as unspoiled today as our writer remembered it to be 30 years ago.
Hanauma Bay embodies ocean beauty and Oahu lore
The historic site is a favorite of residents and visitors alike
As a teen growing up in East Oahu, Hanauma Bay was virtually at my back door. It was the '70s. Bell-bottom pants, platform shoes and puka shell necklaces were in, and so was hanging out at Hanauma.
On weekends my girlfriends and I would gather there as early as we could to stake out our spot on the sand with big, bright towels.
We slathered sunscreen on each other's backs; swam; tanned; listened to America, Three Dog Night and Creedence Clearwater Revival on our transistor radios; and talked about all the things that mattered in life -- where to buy the cutest clothes, what movies we wanted to see and boys, of course.
After I graduated from high school, life changed drastically. A busy college schedule, new friends and a part-time job filled my days. I earned my bachelor's degree, landed a full-time job, got married and had a son.
As I juggled career, marriage and motherhood, my innocent, carefree days at Hanauma dissolved into faint memories. In fact, more than 30 years passed before I set foot there again -- in 2003, to research a book, "Hanauma Bay: Hawaii's Coastal Treasure."
LARRY WINNIK / COURTESY OF ISLAND HERITAGE
The saddleback butterfly.
I remember gazing at the familiar crescent of brilliant blue, smiling as I recalled fun times long ago. Not a palm tree seemed out of place. It felt good to be back.
This year, Hanauma celebrates its 40th anniversary as Hawaii's first Marine Life Conservation District.
Its official name has been changed three times to more accurately reflect its educational, rather than recreational, role.
Prior to 1991 it was called Hanauma Bay Beach Park. In 1991 its name was changed to Hanauma Bay Nature Park. Four years later it was renamed Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.
Drawing 1 million visitors annually, Hanauma's attendance is strictly regulated to help protect its fragile ecosystems.
"Hanauma Bay surely ranks among Hawaii's top natural wonders," said Alan Hong, the preserve's manager.
"Hats off to those visionaries from 40 years ago who designated it the state's first Marine Life Conservation District, and kudos to all its present-day supporters. From visitors enjoying the bay for the first time to the employees who work there every day, we must all do our part to protect this precious resource for future generations."
LARRY WINNIK / COURTESY OF ISLAND HERITAGE
LARRY WINNIK / COURTESY OF ISLAND HERITAGE
The palenose parrot.
The following is an excerpt from "Hanauma Bay: Hawaii's Coastal Treasure" (2005), written by Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi and published by Island Heritage.
(A) tale passed down through the generations tells of two young Hawaiian chiefs, Koko and Hana, who were in love with Keohinani, the beautiful daughter of Keanamoo, guardian of Hanauma Bay. Both asked for Keohinani's hand in marriage, but her heart was torn between them and she could not decide which proposal to accept. Instead, she suggested they engage in a bout of uma (hand wrestling), hoping this would determine which suitor had the most perseverance and strength, and thus would be the best mate.
"Hanauma Bay: Hawaii's Coastal Treasure"
A 120-page full-color book, is available at bookstores and retail outlets statewide, including the Hanauma Bay gift shop. Island Heritage donates a portion of proceeds from the book to the Friends of Hanauma Bay, a nonprofit community-based group that spearheads the preserve's conservation efforts and supports its education programs.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Location: Off Kalanianaole Highway about half a mile east of Koko Marina Center, Hawaii Kai, Oahu
Hours: Summer hours are 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays beginning the first Sunday in April. During the summer the preserve stays open until 10 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. During the winter it closes at 6 p.m. beginning the first Sunday in October, and is open until 10 p.m. the second Saturday each month. The beach is cleared 30 minutes before closing time. The preserve is closed on Tuesdays.
Admission: $5 for nonresidents 13 and older. Free for Hawaii residents with proof of residency, children 12 and younger, and active-duty U.S. military and their dependents. Parking costs $1. Everyone must view an orientation film before heading to the beach.
Web site: www.hanaumabayhawaii.org
The Hanauma Bay Education Program offers free weekly evening educational programs in the Visitor Center's theater. Except for Saturday's special event, all hour-long programs begin at 6:30 p.m.; parking is free after 5:30 p.m. For more information, call 397-5840.
» Thursday: "Naturally Hawaiian: Inspired by Nature," with Patrick Ching, author, artist and owner of Naturally Hawaiian Arts
» Saturday: "Exploring Hanauma Bay's Night Life": Familiarize yourself with Hanauma Bay's nocturnal reef life through presentations and guided beach walks. A craft activity will be available for children. Presentations begin at 6, 7 and 8 p.m.; guided walks begin at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.
» Aug. 16: "Nature's Beauty and the Desire to Share," with Tammy Yee-Custodio, author of many marine life children's books
» Aug. 23: "Limu/Edible Seaweeds: What You Eat May Help You," with Isabella A. Abbott, professor emerita of botany, University of Hawaii at Manoa; Celia M. Smith, professor of botany, University of Hawaii at Manoa; and John Huisman, phycologist, Western Australia Herbarium
» Aug. 30: "Capturing Hanauma's Beauty," with Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi, author, and Larry Winnik and Veronica Carmona, photographers, of the book "Hanauma Bay: Hawaii's Coastal Treasure"
Facing each other, the men lay down on the shore of the bay and locked arms, the object being to touch their opponent's hand against the ground. Both were champions of the sport, and they seemed equally matched in terms of muscle and mettle.
All day they competed, trying to find a weakness in the other that would lead to victory. But it was not to be. Hours later, as night fell, the score was still tied.
Keohinani realized she was the only one who could stop the contest before the men fought to total exhaustion. She walked away, quietly asking her guardian spirits to transform her into a hill overlooking the bay so that both Koko and Hana would be able to be with her.
Pleased with Keohinani's selfless decision, Keanamoo transformed himself into another hill whose ridges intertwined with that of the first, his beloved daughter. These hills resemble the strong locked arms of the two noble chiefs who competed in a game of uma from morning to night to win the heart of the woman they loved.
The Hawaiian word hana means "bay"; the word uma means "curved." Thus, one translation of Hanauma is "curved bay." Uma also means "stern of a canoe." Sheltered from powerful wave action, the bay provided a safe haven for the Hawaiians to beach their canoes while they waited for the favorable conditions they needed to cross the turbulent Kaiwi Channel to Molokai. Hanauma also served as a landing spot for canoes coming from Molokai.
Long ago, Koko Head, the 646-foot-high promontory by the bay, was a popular lookout point. Standing atop it, travelers could see the islands of Molokai, Lanai and, on the clearest of days, even West Maui and Haleakala Volcano. They would climb Koko Head to assess the winds and seas before attempting to cross the channel.
It is unlikely any villages were built at Hanauma in ancient times because of its hot climate, low rainfall, nutrient-poor soil and lack of fresh water. But the Hawaiians definitely fished there.
In 1952, Bishop Museum's Dr. Kenneth Emory and students from his Archaeological Field Methods class at the University of Hawaii at Manoa excavated a natural shelter formed by the overhang of a bluff on the northeast corner of Hanauma's beach. At first glance, Emory thought the 210-square-foot area, which was used by early Hawaiian fishermen as a temporary habitation site, could be excavated in a day, but it wound up taking six people four full days to complete the study.
Scattered on the floor of the shelter were shells of all kinds and sizes, including pipipi (small mollusks), periwinkles, mussels, cowries, cones and opihi (limpets). The site also yielded pig, dog, bird and fish bones; kukui (candlenuts); cooking stones; 22 fishhooks and fishhook fragments; 32 coral files; four shell beads; seven adze pieces; six awls; one rubbing stone; one bone toggle; one bone pick; and other tools dating back several hundred years.
Queen Kaahumanu, favorite wife of King Kamehameha I, came to Hanauma by canoe in 1795, after her husband had conquered Oahu. So enamored was she with the beauty of the area, it is said she tarried there for an entire month, entertained by hula performances and uma competitions. Hanauma later became a favorite fishing spot of other alii (royalty), including King Kamehameha V and Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole.
Hollywood discovered Hanauma Bay in the 1960s; scenes from two of Elvis Presley's movies were filmed at the bay during that decade. In "Blue Hawaii" (1961), Presley plays the rebellious son of a pineapple plantation magnate who starts a guide service and prophetically states the future of the islands lies in tourism. Hanauma Bay provided a stunning backdrop for several scenes, including a luau and hukilau (fishing with a seine). Grossing $4.7 million, "Blue Hawaii" was Presley's biggest box-office hit.
DESOTO BROWN COLLECTION / COURTESY ISLAND HERITAGE
Two Elvis Presley films, "Blue Hawaii" and "Paradise Hawaiian Style," contained scenes shot at Hanauma Bay, which was closed to commercial filming in 1990 to prevent environmental stress.
VERONICA CARMONA / COURTESY ISLAND HERITAGE
The road leading down to Hanauma Bay was constructed in 1950.
In "Paradise Hawaiian Style" (1966), Presley stars as a young pilot who launches a helicopter charter air service. Palea Point was the picturesque spot where his helicopter crashes.
A few years later, an all-star cast featuring Joseph Cotten, E.G. Marshall, Jason Robards and James Whitmore completed takes at photogenic Hanauma for the epic "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (1970), which chronicles the events leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor from both the Japanese and American perspectives. The 144-minute blockbuster won Academy Awards for best film editing, best sound, best art direction, best cinematography and best visual effects.
Many episodes of the popular television series "Hawaii Five-O" (1968-1980) and "Magnum P.I." (1980-1988) also were shot at Hanauma Bay.
Commercial filming at Hanauma -- including movies, travelogues, television and print ads, and music and exercise videos -- was halted in 1990 to support the bay's educational focus, to ensure attendance remained regulated and to prevent undue stress on the environment. Exceptions have been made over the years to organizations such as the National Geographic Society and the National Audubon Society, whose projects have helped further the bay's conservation message.
On Oct. 23, 1967, Hanauma Bay was named Hawaii's first Marine Life Conservation District. That designation meant it was now unlawful for any person to:
"Fish for, catch, take, injure, kill, possess or remove any finfish, crustacean, mollusk including sea shell and opihi, live coral, algae or limu, or other marine life or eggs thereof;
"Take, alter, deface, destroy, possess or remove any sand, coral, rock or other geological feature or specimen;
"Have or possess any fishing gear or device, including but not limited to any hook-and-line, rod, reel, spear, trap, net, crowbar or other device, or noxious chemical that may be used for the taking, injuring or killing of marine life or the altering of a geological feature or specimen, the possession of which shall be considered prima facie evidence in violation of this rule; or
"Introduce any food, substance or chemical into the water to feed or attract marine life."
These laws are strictly enforced, with transgressors being fined up to $100 and sentenced to up to 30 days in jail for each offense. On the positive side, as a result of the restrictions, Hanauma Bay is a thriving coral reef ecosystem that claims the largest standing biomass of reef fish on Oahu.
In an unusual example of joint stewardship, the City and County of Honolulu manages the section of the preserve that lies mauka (toward the mountains) of the high-water mark at the shoreline (i.e., the land) while the submerged lands and waters of the bay come under the jurisdiction of the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Aquatic Resources. The Marine Education Center and other facilities that opened in 2002 support their efforts to protect and preserve Hanauma Bay as a treasured natural resource.
Hanauma in History
Early 1800s: Queen Kaahumanu visits Hanauma Bay.
1848: Ahupuaa (land division) of Maunalua, including Hanauma Bay, is given to Victoria Kamamalu, a descendant of King Kamehameha.
Mid-1800s: Hanauma Bay is considered a favorite fishing place of King Kamehameha V.
1883: Ahupuaa of Maunalua, including Hanauma Bay, is given to Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
1884: Bernice Pauahi Bishop dies; all land holdings are placed in her estate.
1927: The road connecting Honolulu and Makapuu is completed, allowing access to the bay.
1928: Hanauma Bay and Koko Head District Park are deeded to the City and County of Honolulu by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate for use as a recreational park.
1941: Fearing the bay would be used as a landing site by Japan during World War II, defensive positions were established by the army all along Oahu's eastern shore, including at Hanauma Bay.
1950: The City and County of Honolulu budgets $150,000 to dredge three large swimming holes at the bay, to construct a road from the cliff top to the beach and a 20,000-gallon water tank and to improve the parking lot.
1952: Hanauma Bay is "probably the most popular of Oahu's parks," states the Board of Public Parks and Recreation. A group from the University of Hawaii excavates the cliff areas of the bay.
1956: A 200-foot-wide channel is dynamited through the center of the bay to accommodate the first trans-Pacific telephone cable stretching from Hawaii to California.
1966: A beach concession is opened at Hanauma Bay.
1967: Hanauma Bay is designated as Hawaii's first Marine Life Conservation District, thus prohibiting fishing and collecting of any marine or geological specimens.
1970: Due to erosion, the City and County of Honolulu imports sand to build a wave barrier on the reef crest in order to close off the 1956 cable trench and restore the beach.
1979: The city and county contracts for tram service to and from the beach area. It is the only vehicle allowed to use the access road from the beach to the parking lot.
1981: In the first two phases of a five-phase plan, $1 million is awarded for landscaping, drainage improvements, upgrading of the access road and building of additional picnic areas. The first limitations on fish feeding are imposed.
1983: A permit system for commercial use of Hanauma Bay goes into effect. Construction begins to relocate the parking lot and improve the picnic area.
1987: Due to beach erosion, 3,500 cubic yards of sand is imported from Kahuku.
1988: The Department of Transportation enacts a ban on private and commercial boats entering the bay. Visitation to Hanauma Bay peaks at 3 million visitors.
1990: New regulations enacted at the bay include prohibiting feeding the fish anything but permitted fish food and closing the bay until noon on Wednesdays for maintenance. The Friends of Hanauma Bay is formed. The University of Hawaii Sea Grant Extension Service launches the Hanauma Bay Education Program.
1993: The City and County of Honolulu bans smoking on the beach at Hanauma Bay.
1995: An entrance fee for nonresidents is enacted, and an office and food concession are built in the upper park.
1998: Hanauma Bay begins closing every Tuesday for park maintenance. The Hanauma Bay Education Program opens an educational visitor center and office in an unused food concession.
1999: A fish-feeding ban goes into effect.
2000: Plans continue on bay improvements, including an education center and an informational beach kiosk.
2002: New facilities open at Hanauma Bay, including a state-of-the-art Marine Education Center.
Source: "Hanauma Bay: Hawaii's Coastal Treasure"
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.