Hawaii Dangers - Read Before You Go

Hawaii Dangers - Read Before You Go
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Those postcard views can be deceiving. Hawaii is both beautiful and dangerous. Learn how to stay in one piece before you visit.

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Guide Series: Hawaii Dangers
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Protect Yourself From Sunburn & Skin Cancer

General Hawaii Safety - A Must Read For All Visitors

Hawaii is a beautiful place but it can also be very dangerous and even deadly. There are things here that may try and kill you! These range from something obvious like a shark or a massive wave to something benign like a coconut or gentle steam or even something as innocent as crossing a street. Even the sun is out to get you so be sure to read Protect Yourself From Sunburn & Skin Cancer.

Afraid now? Well, good! That is the idea, sort of. You need to have a healthy fear, I mean respect, for Hawaii, nature, animals, and that immensely frightening creature known as the tourist.

We get it, you might be a tourist yourself but we're counting on you to be the smart kind because, after all, you were smart enough to find this site! We're counting on you to be the one who knows their limits and knows when to turn back from that sketchy hike and when not to jump in that calm looking body of water. Just to be safe, let's cover some basics so your Hawaii trip is a pleasant one and ends with you all in one piece.

The Ocean

This is the big one of course. The ocean is everywhere in the Hawaiian Islands and it’s the #1 reason people come here and one of the Top 10 Reasons We're Lucky We Live Hawaii. It's also an accident waiting to happen so let’s cover some rules…

  1. Never, ever swim alone.

  2. If the ocean is angry (big waves, etc) don't go in.

  3. Never turn your back on the ocean. When near water you face the water so you can see the wave that's about to knock you down.

  4. Watch kids well at all times anywhere near water.

  5. Obey posted signs and warnings.

  6. Swim at lifeguarded beaches when possible.

  7. But, just because you see a lifeguard does not mean that the beach is safe! Talk with the lifeguard before entering the water. They love to keep people safe.

  8. Watch for rip-currents which you often can't see until you're caught in them. Did one pull you out away from the beach? Swim parallel to the beach to get out of it before heading back towards the beach.

  9. Stay on beaches where you have cell service and dial 9-1-1 if there is an emergency.

  10. Marine life can be dangerous as well. Never touch turtles, fish, or any marine or animal life of any kind. Many things in the ocean (or on land) will bite, sting, or otherwise cause you pain. Regardless, it's their home and you're just a visitor so leave them alone.

  11. Some beaches will have creatures, like Hawaii Box Jellyfish, that sting. These creatures may come out at certain times of the month so check our Jellyfish Calendar for help on predicting their arrival.

  12. Sharks! They tend to like murky water so avoid it. Bleeding at all or have any fresh cuts? Stay out of the water. See Shark Attacks In Hawaii for more.

  13. Wear sunscreen to Protect Yourself From Sunburn & Skin Cancer. Reapply it often.

  14. Got yourself in trouble? Don't panic! Calmly float and wave your hands above your head for help. Lifeguards look for this behavior and recognize it as a sign of somebody who needs to be rescued.

  15. When in doubt, don't go out!

Hidden & Secret Beaches

In a world of Google Earth there really aren't any truly hidden or secret beaches. But there are many beaches that are off the beaten path and thus referred to as hidden or secret. We publish the locations of these beaches but that doesn't mean you should go. If you do go, it doesn't mean you should swim there.

We understand that our warnings won't stop people from visiting or swimming at these places. We're not here to make decisions for you. It's your life and you need to decide what's risky and what's not based on current conditions and your own abilities.

So why do we even list these beaches? We want to educate you on the dangers as well as show you what you'll be getting into if you go. We also want to show pictures and videos so that you can experience these places without having to go in person. That way you can stay safe but still experience the beauty.

If we removed these listings from this site people would still find them because information is everywhere. So rather than trying to limit information, which doesn't work very well (I'm looking at you North Korea), we'd rather give you more information and educate you in the process so you know why certain places are off the beaten path.

Streams & Ponds

I know what you're thinking, that stream or fresh water pond looks really refreshing on a hot day. After that long hike you probably want to jump in. Or maybe just want your photo taken under that amazing waterfall, right?

We've all been there, but did you know that streams and ponds in Hawaii (and other places around the world) can contain Leptospirosis bacteria? I encourage you to read more on Leptospirosis, but at least know that it comes from infected animal urine and if infected water gets in your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or any open wound you may get it as well.

If you catch it you can expect flu like symptoms 2-4 weeks later and even if you get better on your own you'll likely just get sick all over again until it kills you. So, if you ignore our warnings and get sick tell your mainland doctor to check for Lepto so they can treat you if needed.

Not convinced? Then consider how much fun it would be to get hit by a Flash Flood. You could be experiencing tropical nirvana with perfect weather but miles away in the mountains it's raining cats and dogs without you even knowing it. Out of nowhere, and with no warning whatsoever, a wall of water hits you and sends you downstream while it bashes you on every rock along the way. Chances are good you won't escape it and won't live through it.

See what we mean? So, sure, go on that hike and take your photos but stay out of the streams and ponds along the way.

Hiking & Trails

Even the simplest of trails can be very dangerous. The most obvious is the classic slip and fall. Step on a wet leaf or slippery exposed tree root and you could twist and break an ankle or even fall and hit your head on a rock that kills you. It happens. Of course, this could happen walking on a sidewalk or on the stairs in your own home so I'm not suggesting that this keeps you in your hotel room but rather that you need to be aware that everything is a risk.

Hiking near a stream? We mentioned how a Flash Flood can come out of nowhere and pull you in or leave you stranded. Are you prepared for that event? Read our article on Hiking Safety & Essentials before you head out.

You should also only hike in places where you are permitted to hike, getting any necessary permits before you go. Never stray off the path and never trespass onto private property. Period. Pack out whatever you pack in and pick up trash you spot along the way.

Common Sense & Respect

Anytime you visit a place in Hawaii you need to do so with respect to both the 'aina (land) and the local residents. This is actually pretty easy and you'll often be rewarded with plenty of that Aloha Spirit you've heard about.

Here are the basics…

  1. Never, ever leave a mess. Forget leaving the place as you found it, leave it CLEANER than you found it. See trash blowing around? Pick it up and dispose of it properly even if it isn't yours.

  2. Leave the radios at home. Keep quiet. Keep to yourself. Don't annoy others.

  3. Smoking is illegal on beaches in Hawaii. Even if it wasn't, have some respect for others and don't smoke.

  4. Leave the dog at home unless you're heading to a place that explicitly allows animals. Even then, keep them on a leash per local laws.

  5. Beachcombing? As you stumble onto junk pick it out and dispose of it properly.

  6. Recycle! You may not see recycling bins at the beach so bring your recyclables back to your hotel or home and recycle them there.

  7. Respect the local residents. This is their home, you're only a visitor. You'll be a welcomed guest in most cases if you follow these rules. You wouldn't want 10 million of us vacationing in your backyard every year if we are loud, rude, and left a mess.

  8. In a residential area? Then park only where you are allowed to park and never block a driveway or park anywhere that will annoy or otherwise inconvenience a local resident.

  9. It's all about respect. Go in with a positive attitude and don't walk around like you own the place or are entitled to anything.


Made it this far? I'm impressed. We hope you'll be smart and not blindly follow various guide books because they told you some place is a hidden gem even though it requires a 34 mile ridge hike over fast flowing streams and you've got a pack of kids with you and grandma's hips aren't as good as they used to be.

Accidents do happen and you can get hit by a bus crossing the street to a life-guarded beach or end up in a car accident on the way to a super simple hike. Life is unavoidable but you can at least set the odds in your favor by being educated and prepared and knowing when to stay away from a place because it's beyond your personal limits.

IMPORTANT: In the end, what you do is your decision and we're not responsible for your choices or results but we want you to make smart choices and stay safe while still enjoying the islands. Don't blame us if you get hurt or killed because of something you saw or read about on this site. You've been warned!