Hawaii has some
of the most beautiful beaches in the world with many places to swim, snorkel, sunbathe, or
just rest in the shade and enjoy the scenery. All of Hawaii's beaches are free and
open to the public, even those in front of the expensive hotels. Drinking alcoholic
beverages on Hawaii's beaches is not allowed. Do not leave valuables
in your rental car or unattended on the beach.
hues of the water varying from aqua to royal blue, the white
sand or lava rock beaches, and the shady palm trees can lull you into complacency.
Always keep an eye on young children because they can be injured by an
unexpected wave or drown quickly, even when they are very near you.
Always swim with a partner for safety's sake. Whatever
you do near the water, be aware of the additional warnings listed below.
|Lovely Poipu Beach Park on Kauai
Check Local Conditions
Don't swim at any beach that is not also a public park. Usually restrooms and
dressing rooms are a sure clue. Check posted signs and with lifeguards to be safe
because local conditions can make any beach unsafe for swimming. If
you see no one in the water, there may be a very good reason for it. The beaches on
Oahu's North Shore are often calm and safe in the summer, but seasonal surf can reach
10-15 feet and is potentially dangerous. Winter waves on Oahu's North Shore crest
feet or more and are dangerous by their sheer size.
Dangerous Water Conditions
The best advice is to play it safe and not take chances. If in doubt,
don't go out. However, here are some
situations you should know about in case you are taken by surprise.
Shorebreaks occur when
the waves break directly on the shore. Serious neck and spinal injuries can occur even when the surf is small.
Rip Currents normally
flow parallel to the beach. If caught in one of them swim along with it until its
force diminishes. Never exhaust yourself trying to swim against it.
Occasionally rip currents flow straight out to sea through channels in a reef. These
are more dangerous and if you are caught in one of them, swim to the side of it to get
Undertows are brief,
lasting only until a wave has passed. If pulled down in an undertow, remain calm
and come up for air on the other side of the wave.
Large Waves Storms
at sea, sometimes thousands of miles from the Hawaiian Islands, can generate
very large waves which can pose a danger. While
swimming, don't turn your back on waves or try to jump over or through them. It is
safest to take a deep breath and dive under the wave. Even if you are just watching
large surf, it is never safe to go out to the edge of rocks where surf is breaking.
Extremely large waves can occur suddenly, wash over the rocks without warning and sweep
A word of caution that especially applies to beach-goers is to be aware that
Hawaii's atmosphere is clearer than many other places so almost 75 percent of the
solar radiation penetrates on a clear day. Many visitors spoil their vacation by
spending too much time in the sun without using proper sunscreen. If
you are in the ocean the rays are reflected off the water and intensify its
Injuries in the Water
With any of the injuries listed below, see a doctor if
you have any doubt at all about them and especially if they appear to be
Cuts The most common cause of cuts and scrapes
in the ocean is coral. Most of Hawaii's beaches have sharp coral
reefs close to the shoreline. It isn't uncommon to be snorkeling in shallow
water and be
washed into nearby coral by wave action. You can get bacterial infection from them so remove any
embedded sand or coral, wash thoroughly with clean water, and carefully
bandage it. If the cut is of any size or continues to bleed, you
should see a doctor.
Jellyfish These seem to be near the
surface more in the morning then later in the day. The pain is a
burning sensation that can last from ten minutes to many hours depending on
how much contact you had and your reaction to it. Vinegar can be
used to stop the burning but do not rub it. Pick off any tentacles
you can see and use ice to relieve the pain.
Portuguese Man-of-War These jellyfish are
bluish-purple and look like floating bubbles with long tentacles hanging
down. Watch for them while snorkeling and get out of the water
because they tend to be found in clusters. If you are stung, remove
any visible tentacles (without getting stung on your hand), rinse off with
water, and use ice to help control the pain and swelling. The effect
of these stings rarely last more than an hour.
Sea Urchins Don't walk in water where you
can't clearly see the bottom or you may encounter the spines of a sea
urchin. Not even sand shoes or booties will always protect your
feet. Pull out any protruding spines and your body will normally
absorb the embedded spines within a few weeks or they will work themselves
out. The initial burning and aching will normally subside over
a few days. It is not unusual, however, to have aches and discomfort
for some weeks afterward.
Shark attacks are rare in
Hawaii. With all the millions of times people entered the ocean in
1999, there were only five shark attacks off the Hawaiian Islands. To minimize the chance of an encounter don't swim at dawn,
at dusk, in rough water, or in murky water. Also avoid the mouths of
rivers where sharks tend to wait for dead animals that are carried into
the sea. And of course, don't be in the water with an open wound or anywhere near bloody fish or meat
(perhaps to be used as bait) because sharks are definitely attracted
to blood. Surfers seem to be more vulnerable than swimmers, probably
because they venture further from shore.