Be Careful, Enjoy Your Vacation!
From the fragrant floral smells, to the panoramic views of the Pacific and everything in-between, Hawaii’s a haven of beauty and tranquility. Indeed, Hawaii exudes the true nature of paradise.
Even in paradise there are sure dangers. Dangers that if you are not aware of them, could cause you serious harm, even fatal harm.
The good news is, in most cases, accidents may be prevented. All it takes is the knowledge of potential harm so that you can take the proper precautions. Below is an overview of some dangers to watch out for when on vacation in Hawaii.
Rockfalls and Landslides
Hiking is a popular pastime in Hawaii as there are numerous amazing hiking trails on all the Hawaiian Islands leading to scenic lookout points.
Groups hiking along the base of cliffs and at the pools of waterfalls are often at risk of rockfalls.
This is especially true during the rainy season when the earth is a bit looser; although rockfalls may occur at anytime.
Regardless of how picturesque a hiking trail may be, it is important that the hiking group remain watchful for boulders and sections of the earth that may collapse.
An example of a rockfall tragedy occurred at the popular waterfall called Sacred Falls on the island of Oahu in 1999 where 8 people diet and over 50 other injured.
Flash floods can occur during or after heavy rain. If there was recent heavy rain or it is currently raining, avoid hiking near a stream, waterfall, or pool of a waterfall. Flash floods can happen very suddenly and you can be swept away by strong currents and large amounts of water gushing down a mountain or cliff. Before hiking, always check the weather forecast to see if heavy rains have occurred or are forecasted in the area.
Example: Oheo Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools) on the island of Maui – Flash floods have occurred here and on several occasions people have been dragged all the way into the ocean where they drowned.
Hawaii is a prime destination for surfing and other water sports. High and powerful waves provide and excitement that many thrill seekers desire. Of course, this can present a dangerous hazard as well.
As an example: Sandy Beach on Oahu is known as the “beach of broken necks and bones” as many accidents occur yearly due to the powerful shore break.
Here are some rules to follow with respect to swimming or any other leisure activity at Hawaii beaches:
- Do not swim alone at remote beach locations
- Do not swim at beaches where there is no lifeguard present.
Certain Hawaii beaches are only dangerous at certain time of the year, while others are dangerous all year round. As a general rule, the waves and large and powerful on the north shores during the winter months (November to February), while the waves are large on the south coat during the summer months (June to August). Of course, there are exceptions to this rule like any other. Be proactive and check the weather forecast before venturing out to enjoy any major beach sport activity. Even if you are an experienced body boarders and surfers only, ensure that you are always extra careful.
As waves can be particularly hazardous, strong currents can be a recipe for disaster as well. Worst yet, currents are a bit more deceptive. Strong along-shore currents and rip currents can exists in seemingly calm and peaceful water.
If you venture it an unguarded beach, with no warning signs posted. Be sure to speak with the locals before venturing onto the beach.
If you happen to find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance where you are held by a rip current, it is critically important to stay calm. While we are aware that this is easier said than done, your frantic panicking will do nothing to help the situation. Try as best as possible to remain calm and do not attempt to swim against the current as you will not be able to overcome it. Instead, swim parallel to the beach until you are outside the current, then you can swim back to the beach.
Box Jellyfish and Portuguese Man-of-War
As with any tropical area, you will find several different types of critters in the environs of Hawaii.
For beach goers, you’ll need to keep in mind that jellyfish and other marine animals may pose a danger.
It is not uncommon for swimmers to get bitten by box jellyfish or the Portuguese Man-of-War.
While hospitalization is not normally necessary, the stings do hurt quite a bit and the burning sensation may linger for quite a while. Simply put, it’s certainly not the kind of thing you want to encounter during your vacation.
Here is the good news, it is often quite easy to predict and therefore avoid these little ocean creatures. These little guys normally usually invade the beaches about 9-12 days after a full moon. If you are planning a beach trip then, you should grab a calendar and count the number of days since the last full moon. You’ll have to use that guide for the less popular, unguarded beaches; as on the more popular beaches, signs and warnings are often erected.
On arriving at the beach, one of the first things to check is if any jellyfish or Portuguese Man-of-War have been washed up along the shore. If you see signs of these creatures, do not enter the water.
Additionally, you may want to bring along a first aid kit to treat a sting, just in case.
A simple, but effective first aid treatment for a box jellyfish or Portuguese Man-of-War sting is as follows:
- Rinsing the affected area with either vinegar or a solution of 70% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
- Apply a solution such as Safe Sea Jellyfish After Sting pain relief gel to the area.
Go here for a more comprehensive guide to treating box jellyfish or Portuguese Man-of-War stings.
Rugged Hiking Cliff Trails
Apart from sliding boulders, there are other hazards are often present on hiking trails.
Firstly, if you plan to hike in Hawaii, we recommend that you get a guidebook or speak to experienced personnel so that you can get an idea as to what each trail is like and which one may be suitable to you.
Hazards may include:
- Narrow trails with steep drop-offs
- Slippery trails that may be difficult to traverse when it rains
Additionally, always hike with at least one other person and be sure to inform a relive or friend as to where you are going. In some remote areas, you may lose cell service and have no means of contact if disaster strikes.
Dangerous Places in Hawaii
Disclaimer 1: This list is not all inclusive. Also, you can be injured or killed in even the “safest” of spots. Again, nature is unpredictable. Do not turn your back on the ocean or forget where you’re at any time.
Disclaimer 2: I am not saying to avoid these places at all cost. It would benefit you (and keep you safe and alive) to heed warnings, do research and if there is ever any doubt or you feel unfomfortable, in danger or beyond your capability IN ANY WAY, to stop immediately, get out of the water, turn around on the hike and/or call for help.
Each beach in Hawaii has posted signs that warn people of high surf, strong break, riptides, currents and the lack or presence of lifeguards, as well as your own physical capabilities/limitations.
- ANY North Shore Beach during the “winter months”. This is great surfing weather and people love doing it. However, not everyone can surf and you can get enveloped and drowned quickly.
- Sandy Beach is known as a great body surfing spot. The shore break can crush you though and hit hurt you pretty badly.
- The Toilet Bowl at Hanauma Bay (sucks you In and shoots you out)
- Spitting Caves, east of Koko Kai (again, sucks you in and spits you out)
- Lumaha’i Beach (nicknamed Luma-die) rogue waves and rip currents.
- Hanakapi’ai Beach, rogue waves and rip currents.
- Polihale Beach, same here. Stay in waist deep water and don’t get cute with the surf and break.
- Makena Beach: Violent shore breaks on hard sand in shallow water.
- D.T. Fleming Beach: Ditto’
Big Island Beaches
- Hapuna Beach: Better for sunbathing than having fun in the water.
- Magic Sands: Surf breaks, rip currents and the unknown ocean. Catch some rays, instead.
Disclaimer 3: There are literally dozens of dangerous water and beach spots on each island. Like we said in Disclaimer 1, this list is not all inclusive. However, these are the ones that seem to be the most search for on the internet, talked about in forums and where more than one person has died or being seriously injured.
Dangers May Be Avoided If People Listen
Hawaii is a natural wonder in itself. Theocean, mountains and tropical forest(jungle, people…it’s jungle!) are all beautiful and mesmerizing. They can also snatch the life out of you or greatly injure you if you disrespect it, forget about it, or turn your back on it for just a second.
It would seem that people don’t listen to the warnings that are placed on every beach and hiking trail for three main reasons:
- They underestimate the danger (lack of respect for nature, “I see this done all the time..”)
- They overestimate their ability and fragility (booze or pride)
- Ignorance (Ignorance)
Also, there are some demographic information of people who seem to get injured or die for these reasons and in the following spots:
- Young People and Children
Of those groups, it would seem that many military find themselves victim of injury and death. I always think it is so sad to see a military member with many wartime and combat deployments come back from a danger zone only to die on a mountain or ocean of Hawaii.
I think the military is in a dangerous situation. Many of them live on Oahu and feel that they “know the Island” and certain spots. They fall in to the underestimate/overestimate/ignorance categories all too often.
Many tourists just don’t understand the dangers that such beauty can possess. They turn their back on the ocean for a second and a rogue wave gets them. Or, they ignore the websites that tell people “don’t hike this trail unless you are with a seasoned guide and are in great physical shape”.
Fortunately for Hawaii residents and visitors, the State of Hawaii has one of the best and most elite departments of rescue and emergency responders in the United States and, perhaps, the world.Each year, Hawaii Fire and Rescue (as well as lifeguards, police, and helpfulkama’aina) save people from mountain injuries, “close call” fatalities and possible drownings. Many people owe their lives to these brave people.
Unfortunately, they can’t save or rescue them all.
Millions of people call Hawaii home. Millions more visit each year as a popular vacation spot. You may be thinking about visiting or moving to Hawaii, yourself. For the most part, the gorgeous paradise of Hawaii results in memories that will last a life time and a great place to live.
Each year, unfortunately, Hawaii proves dangerous and fatal to many.