Historical Firsts at Hanauma Bay

This wonderful tourist attraction has come a long way.  Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay is like swimming in a giant, salt-water aquarium.  There’s just something about snorkeling with all of those fish!

Hanauma Bay just before sunset

I remember the feeling, especially as a young child, of being in another world while swimming with those fish.  At that age you’re so taken by the underwater world that you forget you’re actually just floating at the surface of the water like a big fat jelly fish.   A kid’s imagination can fill volumes.

Of course, at that young age, we also thought we were immune to danger and we heeded few warnings.  We would make that trek around the rocky perimeter to get to the “toilet bowl.”  Do keep in mind that this is based on an approximately 35-year-old memory.

YouTube Preview Image

It wasn’t the flushing part we wanted so much, it was the fast rising to the top that was the fun part. The videos on YouTube seem to be mostly of teenagers and adults, or so it seems. I was about 8 or 9 years old (stop doing the math). Like I said, we were immune to the dangers and fearless. 🙂

This particular video had a comment with it that said, Old stomping grounds… Can’t wait to go back!!!” and I can certainly relate to that statement. Thank you mtnbiker04 for capturing this great memory.

It was great fun to have that natural bowl of lavarock and coral throw you back up. Maybe they should have called it the “vomit bowl” or something. Okay, that name would not have been quite so attractive; “toilet bowl” is not the most attractive name either. Over the years, it seems that the waves have made the rim of the bowl smoother than it was back then.

Other things have changed, too.  When we frequented Hanauma Bay all those years ago, there was no building with all of this great educational information.  Suddenly, okay maybe not so suddenly, there’s a whole meeting room with exhibits to see and share.

Tile wall at entrance

This building appeared out of nowhere, it seems, and they even took the time to install this lovely ceramic-tile mural.  This is the Hanauma Bay Education Center.  Where was I?  I’ll admit that the East side of O’ahu received little to no attention from me over the 80’s and 90’s but I was a little busy with college, growing up and figuring out how to earn a living, and other boring stuff like that.

Hanauma Bay TimelineA walk through this Education Center will give you a quick lesson about a portion of the history of Hawai’i while getting a detailed history of Hanauma Bay.  There is a tremendous amount of information here that I found quite amazing.  In 1950 the City & County of Honolulu set aside $150,000 to dig up three swimming holes (I thought these were natural occurrences) and make improvements to the park which quickly became one of Honolulu’s most popular places for residents and visitors.

The next to the last picture on the right-hand side of this photo of the timeline shows some kind of blast.  No, it’s not World War II!  If you get close enought to read the text you find that it’s actually a blast to put us in contact with the rest of the world.  In 1956 a channel was blasted through Hanauma Bay for the installation of the very first transpacific telephone cable reaching from Hawai’i to California!

It sounds so destructive but it created a wonderful place for us and a very welcome environment for the most colorful fish and other marine life!  Another important tidbit of information to be found here is that Hanauma Bay became Hawai’i’s first Marine Life Conservation District in 1967.  Based on these descriptions and my own time line, I would have to say that this is the Hanauma Bay of my past.  This is the one that was created for the enjoyment of the generation that would follow — my generation.

The educational material certainly does not stop with the time line.  There are exhibits of different cultural items related to life in Hawai’i and how the ocean is so much a part of that life.  There are displays of woven fishing baskets and the hooks that were used for fishing so very long ago.  Then we get to one of the most important aspects for this venue, a great amount of detailed information about what helps make Hanauma Bay the bay what it is — coral!

Coral exhibit

The education doesn’t stop here.  The best part is that efforts have been made to further educate the public with talks, films and guest speakers.  The UH Sea Grant Hanauma Bay Education Program, managed by the University of Hawaii’s Sea Grant College Program, has put together these educational films and quest speakers to share their knowledge and information about the jobs they do.  Here is a calendar of events to help you plan your Thursday evenings.

For more information, interested parties can either call (808) 397-5840, visit the Hanauma Bay Education Program website, or ask about being added to Shawn Carrier’s email notification list.  Shawn is an Outreach Education Specialist with the UH Sea Grant Hanauma Bay Education Program and he’s always willing to add you to the list.  My experience in this area has always been good.  He’s going to love me for doing this but I think he’ll get over it.  The more people we can educate the better.

Yes, Hanauma Bay is on the map for travel guides and yes there is much to learn, protect and admire about this natural treasure.  But for life-time residents it’s part of the history of our home and, for some of us, the history of our lives.  We’ve lived part of the history of our home.  You don’t realize the significance of this kind of thing until, well, until it becomes historical.  Man, I feel old.  I told you guys to stop doing the math!  🙂

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11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 susie // Feb 25, 2009 at 9:57 am

    I really need to get back there! It was high school for me too, early 70’s. One of four friends was taken out to the ocean and shot back in at the toilet bowl. Something none of us will forget. Thanks for the blog about Hanauma, I will put it on my Bucket List!

  • 2 Evelyn // Feb 25, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    I hope your friend wasn’t badly hurt, Susie? Ouch! That must have terrified all of you! I remember that suction could be pretty nasty at times, if the current was so inclined.

  • 3 Sheila // Feb 26, 2009 at 2:13 am

    OK, first, YOU’RE NOT OLD! 🙂

    This is a great post and easy to see how Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular tourist stops on Oahu. I’m glad that it’s a preserve to keep a treasure like this lasting for generations to come!

  • 4 Evelyn // Feb 26, 2009 at 7:05 am

    That’s right, Sheila, we’re young, right? 😉 LOL! It’s funny just how much goes on around us without us even realizing it! Sheesh! While noticing the changes and realizing just how much has happened to this landmark, I began to notice the amount of time that has passed. Oh my goodness.

  • 5 Keahi Pelayo // Feb 26, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Believe or not I am a resident of Honolulu and have never been swimming at Hanauma. Been to the beach, but didn’t get wet. I am putting it on my list of things to do.
    Aloha,
    Keahi

  • 6 sunny // Feb 26, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    I always loved snorkeling as a kid, and now. I should take my kids here next time we are on your island:-)They love snorkeling too.

  • 7 Evelyn // Feb 26, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    You know, Keahi, I believe it. I have to admit that the amount of things I have not done or bothered to see on Oahu is staggering! Shame on us! We have to make an effort to fix that. 🙂

  • 8 Evelyn // Feb 26, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Sunny! Thanks for stopping by. The kids would love it! Of course it’s not like playing in the snow, which I’ve never done, but it’s great when you’re young and it’s so safe — to snorkel. Do accompany them to the toilet bowl though. 🙂

  • 9 Carnival for March // Mar 2, 2009 at 1:14 am

    […] A Honolulu blog ← Historical Firsts at Hanauma Bay […]

  • 10 Bobby Revell // Mar 7, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    That looks like a fun place to swim! I actually watched a program about how Polynesian sailors sailed across the ocean using only the stars for navigation—and somehow moved people back and forth to Hawai’i. According to nautical engineers, they were the most incredibly skilled for their time being they had no compasses or instrumentation. See . . . I know a tiny bit about it lol! 🙂

  • 11 Evelyn // Mar 8, 2009 at 5:05 am

    Hi Bobby! They do it today too, just to keep that part of history and culture alive. The passion is amazing and the Hokule’a has become a household word. For the record, I’m not surprised at all that you know a heck of a lot of things about a lot of stuff! 🙂

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