The beautiful Hanauma Bay is a snorkelers paradise with warm, deep blue water, soft sand, coral and of course plenty of fish…
The bay is a stunning natural pool that was formed inside a volcanic crater about 32,000 years ago. Today, those explosions are no where to be seen and the waters are calm and so inviting. The ‘Hana’ in Hanauma means bay and ‘uma’ means the curve of a canoe. Perfect name for this gem. Before this area became a very popular tourist attraction it was used by locals for fishing and recreation. Now? You better get there early for a parking spot in the fairly small parking lot or take public transportation.
You can easily spend a whole day here exploring the reef and feasting your eyes on the huge variety of colorful fish, eel (we saw a snake eel), octopus, turtles and if you’re lucky you might even get to see a whale or two out on the horizon.
There’s so much to see…
I’d recommend going during high tide. We stayed for a while so we got to experience a fairly low tide which gives you very little space to make it over some of the reef formations.
This guy was settling in for a nap.
Hanauma Bay has a bit of a reputation of being crowded. We went early (9am) on a weekday and had no trouble at all. We brought our own snorkel gear (highly recommend) but you can rent it there. There’s a small entrance fee and you’re required to watch a short film before being allowed to go down into the bay. The film explains the history and shows every visitor how to treat the coral and the fish there. (Yet… many still carelessly step all over the coral.) There’s a food stand there, which is fine, but I recommend bringing your own snacks and drinks too. After you’re done you must stop at Leonard’s on Kapahulu for a Malasada. Not just one… several. You wont regret it! If the line is long, don’t pass, wait… patiently. It’s worth it.
A few things…
– wear reef safe sunscreen
– always go with a partner
– if you’re a good swimmer go out past the ‘wall’. There’s way more to be seen out there.
One of my most favorite things is unexpectedly running into something really interesting that I’ve never heard of before. That’s what happened at The Lava Beds, and…we had it pretty much to ourselves.
There’s said to be several hundreds of caves underground here that were formed over 10,000 years ago and out of those about twenty are open to the public. This is a huge gem and the largest concentration of underground lava tubes in the country! The caves are divided into groups varying from least to most challenging.
Visit the visitors center first to register and get important information on current conditions. You’ll also get to visit exhibits inside the center explaining the volcanic geology and the history and culture of the Modoc people who called this home. Bring flashlights. Helmets are a great idea. Good shoes. And a jacket. It can get really cold. There are different levels of caves where some require you to crawl (bring knee pads) through tight spaces. The map you get at the visitors center clearly mark which caves are harder and which are an easier walk through.
If you suffer from any form of claustrophobia or a fear of dark spaces this is not the greatest place to visit, but there are caves for all skill levels and some are huge and more open (Skull Cave)
The Mushpot Cave is a great start. It’s the only cave with lights and there are a lot of signs explaining what everything in there is.
You’ll find yourself marveling at the huge variety of textures, patterns and edges that were formed when the lava started draining from the caves and tubes. Drip stone and Lava-sickles were formed while it was drying before they froze into the current shape. There’s still water dripping from these in some of the caves.
As you stand at the entrance to the caves you’d have no idea what was below you if you didn’t already know.
This one seemed to go on forever and ever.
The Golden Dome Cave.
The entrances are often very steep and small. You’ll be ducking and sometimes even crawling through tight spaces as you make your way through the long tubes.
Gold! It looks as if someone brought paint to brighten up the darkness, but what it really is is bacteria! These gatherings of bacteria are yellow and hydrophobic (water beads up on them) creating this shiny and very attractive sparkle when you shine your flashlight on it in the otherwise very dark cave.
Sunshine Cave (who came up with that name?! ) Going deep underground here to see more amazing lava formations
The ceiling here had a lot of lava-sicles
The last cave we visited, Skull Cave, is enormous. It got it’s name from the hundreds of large animal bones, and two human, that were removed from it around the turn of the 19th century.
This is one of two caves in the park that feature an ice floor. This ice was very important to early settlers as the area has very little water.
A few things…
– You’ll be screened for white-nose syndrome (a deadly bat disease) This means that if you have been in another cave wearing the same shoes since 2006 (or ever outside the US) you’ll need to leave those shoes at home.
-You’ll want to bring food and drinks
-There’s an entry fee ($25 per vehicle). I have America the Beautiful National Parks annual pass and they accept that.
Work! To live carefree and in a constant state of adventuring…what a dream! A dream that is definitely not a reality for me. How about you?
I do a variety of work trying to keep up with the cost of living in CA. Most of my time is spent in a very non-glittery way sitting in front of my laptop working online doing translations,editing and other jobs. I prefer using my hands, creating and doing stuff like handy(wo)man jobs. I’m most definitely not the best at this, but I like it. It gets me outside and into focusing on the present…and fortunately I have an extremely patient boss.
…But I do have quite a few years of experience, many of those working at Home Depot while in college.
To me, working on fences outside and getting dirty is so much better than sitting inside on front of a screen all day long.
Working inside isn’t always a bad thing though 😉
Staying organized… sort off. The ocean view is most important here 😉
Building walls and painting
What do you do to survive and pay those bills?
I’ll keep dreaming. Maybe someday this blog will be a bit bigger and I’ll get to spend my time building my own house in stead of fixing stuff for others.
This was one of the best days ever! I got to go snorkeling with sharks (again). Usually I’ll get to see one, maybe two, but this time there were an abundance of them as you can see in the video above and it was just amazing.
No tour, just out in the open ocean with a (very kind) friend brave enough to be just as crazy as I am! Just kidding, these sharks are harmless and pretty shy. They were between 5 to 6 feet and I had to chase them around… not the other way. They are leopard sharks and there was one other kind which I’m not sure what was, but I think it’s the one locals call “Cute Shark”. As with any wild animal, be respectful and they’ll be respectful to you. If you start grabbing them they will defend themselves.
Please excuse the poor photo quality of this post. They were shot mainly with underwater cameras.
I love snorkeling and do it as often as I can. It’s so peaceful and every time I go I experience something completely different. My favorite spot to go snorkeling is La Jolla Cove, but if you’re looking for sharks, then this is not the best place. I’ve only ever spotted one there. (You will see a whole lot of sea lions though.) Instead head to La Jolla Shores, park in the large lot and walk south. You’ll see an area where a bunch of kayaking schools venture out, pass them, and start going out in the water. The best time to go is during mating season which is early June through October, but you can spot them year round. I’ve seen the most during August and September. The video above was shot in September.
The sharks are there because the water is really warm during those months, but warmer water also means stingrays. There are a lot and they can be pretty big! They are much more intimidating and scary than the sharks to me.
A few things…
–Shuffle your feet as you go in the water. The stingrays are everywhere and those stings really hurt!
-Go prepared. Learn from locals, stop and ask the local dive shops or lifeguard towers for tips and advice.
-Bring a diving knife. The sea grass can be really long and if the waves are strong you or your friends can get tangled in it.
-Try to swim near lifeguards.
-Always swim with friends, never alone.
Never miss a sunset…
Nojoqui falls is a fairy tale world of mist, tiny rainbows and little miniature cave villages surrounded by moss and maidenhair ferns… if you dare to step all the way up, as close as you can get, you’ll see. And maybe you’ll hear the faint whispers of the Chumash Indians who long ago called the area home and treasured the falls.
Drop your head back and look up. It’s not very impressive when it comes to rushing water, as you can see. Instead it slowly drips between the two steady streams, softly splashing mist onto ones face.
Little droplets fall from leaf to leaf and some roll into miniature caves creating little ponds.
…or drip so softly that even bees can rest and drink.
The suns beams, cutting ever so gently through the trees, light up the path to the waterfall. You might get lucky and see/hear a woodpecker or two hard at work, maybe a few lovesick cicadas or the call of a local bird, but mostly it’s quiet. The really nice kind of quiet. The quiet that makes you stop, close your eyes and listen… to absolute beautiful silence.
You’ll encounter a few small bridges and start seeing evidence of the waterfall as you cross the first one.
Suddenly you’ll be confronted by all these signs (above) set up there in a big mess all together. Lots of warnings and red. But as you can see the path continues perfectly on the other side. The waterfall is right around the corner. If you choose to continue please do so very carefully. We have witnessed quite a few rocks falling.
Legend has it that a devastating tragedy happened here once. There were many different settlements of Chumash Indians in the area, and once, long ago, two lovers from two different tribes secretly met here at the falls and because they weren’t allowed to be together, they jumped the 100 feet from the top in each others arms. A bittersweet story to keep in mind when visiting. Some say the meaning of Nojoqui is Honeymoon as a tribute to the lovers, others say it simply means Windy Valley.
A few things…
– the dirt parking lot right by the path to the waterfall is a bit rough but you can park in the area right before it and it’s not a far walk at all.
-go off season and avoid weekends. I’ve been told it can get pretty crowded.
-don’t bring food and drinks. Instead, after you’re done here, drive a few miles to Solvang and eat there for the rest of the day… seriously, you’ll want to try everything. I recommend Olsen’s Bakery, The Red Viking for dinner, Solvang Restaurent for Aebleskiver and Ingeborg’s for Floedeboller. (there’ll be a post coming soon on all these things).