Smokers beware. Hanauma Bay, a spectacular turquoise crescent carved into the southeastern shore of Oahu, has become the first beach in Hawaii--if not the world--to ban smoking.
The move is the latest in a campaign to rescue the marine preserve, with its colorful reef fish, from the impact of hordes of humans. One of the state's top visitor destinations, Hanauma Bay Nature Park once attracted as many as 3 million people a year.
In 1990, city officials cut the flow of people to the overcrowded beach in half by preventing tour buses from dropping passengers at Hanauma. Now, concerned that cigarette butts washing into the water might pose a threat to fish and turtles, they have restricted smoking to the parking lot overlooking the bay.
"Before the ordinance, this place looked like an ashtray," said Council member John Henry Felix, author of the no-smoking bill. "So many people put their cigarettes out in the sand. Now, it looks rather pristine."
"We are trying to change everyone's mind-set about this place," said Alan Hong, Hanauma Bay manager. "This is a place to see marine animals in their natural habitat, and we mean natural." Hanauma Bay, about 20 minutes by car from Waikiki, is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and closed on Wednesday mornings. The parking lot can fill up as early as 9 a.m.
The bay was formed thousands of years ago when ocean waves broke through part of the rim of a volcanic crater. It was designated as the state's first Marine Life Conservation District in 1967.