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Kokua Line: Why is it so hard to get a reservation to snorkel at Oahu’s Hanauma Bay?

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Question: Please investigate why the Hanauma Bay reservation system, operating now for a few weeks, is not working properly. It seems that there is something that smells fishy (and we are not even snorkeling yet) or there are some incredibly fast applicants that remove all available reservations within three minutes of opening the site. This is very suspicious to me and many others who are unable to visit the newly opening park under the newly opened reservation system. My experience is to be at the website ( at 6:59 a.m., wait for the day to become available at 7:00 a.m., and find that within two or three minutes all reservations are taken for the newly available day. How can that happen? Is there a way to track how this can occur? (Is it) virtually impossible to get a reservation typed in fast enough before it is scooped by robo-callers or Haunama-hacker of some sort? …

Answer: We followed up with Oahu’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which is tweaking the system to prevent commercial operators from snagging coveted spots at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in East Oahu. Still, Nathan Serota, a DPR spokesman, said high demand from individuals — residents and visitors alike — seems to be more of a factor in the rush for reservations, which can be made two days in advance. Based on your complaint, DPR tested the online system and did not detect bots or other automated tools tying up the system, he said.

Here’s more from Serota, who apologized for the trouble you’ve had and encouraged you to keep trying:

“Hanauma Bay is arguably the most popular snorkeling, nature preserve, and tourist destination in the state. With it being closed for about nine months during the pandemic, and tourism arrivals returning to more normal levels, the pent-up demand to visit this pristine location is undeniable. We see similar demand in our online camping reservation system, where many of our popular campsites are booked within seconds of the reservation system opening. There isn’t anything necessarily malicious in play, just lots of people wanting to enjoy the outdoors.

“Another factor is the commercialization of visits to Hanauma Bay. This was a concern that we thoroughly discussed while developing this online system, as currently there are no non-City commercial activities allowed in the nature preserve … . We are continuing to adapt our operations to level the playing field for local and non-commercial preserve visitors. In fact, we are now implementing protocols where reservations are non-transferable — meaning you must present identification at the admission window that matches your reservation or you will not be allowed entry. In addition, we will eventually incorporate online payments into this reservation system, which would add another layer of redundancy to make sure the people making the reservations are the ones actually entering the bay.”

A single reservation can include up to 10 people, five of them children. Requiring an ID that matches the confirmation ticket should help deter commercial operators from reserving spots to sell, Serota said Friday.

Q: I saw an NBC report about AAPI hate crime and it was suggested that people take “bystander training.” What is it and where can I get it?

A: Bystander training teaches people how to intervene effectively when they witness harassment, violence or other serious problems in which they are not directly involved.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (, a national coalition of civil and human rights groups, has partnered with Hollaback ( to offer Bystander Intervention training online, aimed at thwarting harassment, aggression and violence against Asian Americans, which has risen in the continental United States during the pandemic.

You can find registration information about upcoming one-hour interactive Zoom seminars on either of the aforementioned websites.

Hollaback, a New York-based group devoted to ending street violence and other forms of harassment, says the five D’s of bystander intervention are distract, delegate, document, delay and direct.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice says participants in the virtual workshops will learn “how you can intervene effectively as a bystander without ever compromising your safety” and will “leave feeling more confident intervening the next time you see Anti-Asian/American harassment online or in person.”

Q: Does the city even do homeless sweeps anymore? There’s been a lot on the news about Chinatown, but other locations are almost as bad.

A: Yes. The Department of Facility Maintenance enforces the island’s stored property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances. The schedule generally is posted at least a day ahead of time on its website. Enforcement is scheduled Monday in Waikiki, Thomas Square, Iwilei and Waipahu, among other locations.

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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