Hawaii’s beautiful beaches and gorgeous tropical waters are a major attraction for travelers, but you must respect the ocean and avoid putting yourself in an unpleasant or even dangerous situation.
1. Never turn your back on the ocean. It’s important you pay attention to what the ocean is doing because waves and other dangerous changes can happen without warning.
2. Pay attention to posted signs. Ocean conditions change frequently. Certain beaches that offer calm, idyllic swimming spots during certain times can become downright life-threatening at others. Watch for signs warning of strong currents, shore breaks, swarms of jellyfish, and other dangers and always follow the guidelines.
3. Stay off the coral. Our coral reefs are living organisms, not ‘pretty rocks’. When swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving, please enjoy looking at Hawaiian coral species to your heart’s content, but avoid stepping on or removing pieces of it. Plus, coral is very sharp and you risk serious cuts and infections by touching or stepping on it.
4. Watch for shore breaks, which are waves that break (crash) right at the shore line. These can be far more powerful than they look and if you’re caught in one, you may not be able to escape without serious injury. Feel free to take pictures of our famous big waves (which can be up to 25 feet high) from a safe distance, but don’t get too close unless you’re a superstar surfer.
5. Beware of strong ocean currents that can sweep you out to sea. Avoid swimming when you see signs warning of strong currents. If you do end up caught in a current, do not try to swim against it .. just swim diagonally towards the shore line. Try not to panic and do what you can to call for help or wave to get someone’s attention.
6. Never rely on a flotation device to keep you safe. You should be able to swim if you plan to be in the ocean.
7. Always swim with a buddy. Never let children into the ocean unsupervised.
8. Choose beaches with lifeguards, whenever possible.
9. Watch the ocean for 15 minutes before getting in the water to get to know what the ocean is up to on that day.
10. Avoid alcohol or drugs, whose effects are exacerbated by the sun, when you’re planning on going into the ocean.
These common-sense tips can help ensure your Hawaii vacation will be safe and fun. The ocean is a majestic thing that Hawaiians are very proud of, but its power must be respected.
… And always remember the Hawaii lifeguards’ golden rule: If in Doubt, Just Stay Out!