Hawaii beach safety in the news yet again with reports that drownings here are now 13 times the national average. And visitor drownings are 10 times the rate of residents. That according to the Hawaii Department of Health. Kauai alone has had 12 drownings so far this year, twice as many as in all of 2015.
While this is a reality visitors really should not ignore, the fact is they often do. And drowning can happen to anyone at any beach, no matter how famous you are or how good shape you think you’re in. In fact, over 150 visitors have died in Hawaii over the past 3 years, nearly half of whom drowned. Other accidents were mostly attributable to hiking and auto.
Hawaii beaches are accessible year-round so you can always find a beach that’s suitable for you. Remember that seasons can change the surf conditions. For example, if you visited Hanalei Bay in summer you found a mostly calm surface for swimming. In the winter however the surf at Hanalei can go up by 30 feet or more.
This serves as a reminder to all of us to respect the ocean among other dangers while in Hawaii. Hawaii surf conditions and Hawaii beach safety are something to consider at any time of year. Issues can include strong currents, wave surges, and seasonal variations in ocean conditions among others.
Top 10 Hawaii Beach Safety Tips to protect yourself from danger on your Hawaii vacation
1. Minimize risk by being alert to and respectful of the dangers of ocean conditions.
2. Choose to swim Hawaii beaches which are lifeguard protected. Look for rescue station tubes at many beaches.
3. Follow Hawaii beach warnings and closures.
4. Check with a lifeguard if in any doubt.
5. Watch the water for several minutes to look for larger waves appearing in groups.
6. Review ocean safety brochures which are provided in visitor accommodations.
7. Visit the Hawaii Beach Safety website from the Hawaii Lifeguard Association for very frequent updates on Hawaii surf conditions and warnings for all islands.
8. Understand rip currents and how to deal with them.
9. Avoid jellyfish stings – read our 2017 Hawaii jellyfish update and calendar.
10. Don’t get caught on wet rocks where unexpected waves can suddenly appear. Look for hidden rocks at beaches.
Statistically Deadliest Hawaii Beaches
Surprisingly, the deadliest beaches may not be those that first come to mind. Many drownings occur at some of the smoothest water beaches where visitors were snorkeling or swimming.
- Hanauma Bay
- Waikiki Beach
- Black Rock
- Kahanamoku Beach and Lagoon
Some of the Most Dangerous Hawaii Beaches
The most dangerous beaches in terms of injury but not mortality were:
- Makena Beach
- Hapuna Beach
- Sandy Beach
- Brennecke Beach
- Laaloa Beach
We saw this first hand recently at Hapuna Beach when people entered the ocean on a day with high surf and red flag conditions. Some people tried to snorkel and were pushed against the rocks as lifeguards came out to help. Earlier this year, three visitors died in one week. And on average, one visitor dies each week here in the islands.
Remember, “if in doubt, don’t go out.” We want you to visit Hawaii again and again.