Hanauma Bay to get education center

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HONOLULU -- The city broke ground on a $10.6 million project at Hanauma Bay, a popular snorkel spot, to build an environmental education center and new food and snorkel rental outlets.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year, said Hanauma Bay manager Alan Hong.

At the environmental education center, the roughly 4,000 visitors who come to the bay each day will view a mandatory multilingual video, in groups of up to 125.

The nine-minute video will tell visitors not to break off parts of the reef to take home, not to stand on the reef and not to feed the fish.

It also will address safety issues.

Hanauma Bay lies at the foot of a cliff. Visitors must walk down a path from an upper parking lot and park area to reach the beach and the snorkel area below.

The video education area, an outdoor exhibit with interactive displays and a visitor information desk will be near the upper parking lot area.

The buildings will be part of the landscape, covered in an earthen berm and topped with grass so as to blend in with the natural surroundings.

The open-air exhibit will give visitors a feel for the bay's history, its ties to Hawaiian culture, its geology, the flora and fauna of the area, visitor safety and marine life preservation, Hong said.

Showing the video will complement other measures the city has taken during the past decade to preserve the bay, he added.

Hong said the city reduced the number of visitors from 3 million per year in 1990 to 1 million per year this year by banning tour buses and restricting visitors to the number of cars that will fit in the parking lot.

"If we didn't restrict the numbers of people coming in here, we would destroy the reef," said Hong.

"If visitors get inconvenienced when the parking lot is full, they should understand it's for the betterment of Hanauma Bay."

On busy days, visitors will have to wait to see the video before going to the beach, Hong said.

While waiting, they will be able to picnic in the park and browse the exhibit area.

The bay is open every day from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. except Tuesdays.

The cost is $3 for adults. Children under the age of 12 are admitted for free.

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