Nothing ruins a trip like an accident, friends. Except maybe a preventable infection! Hawai’i is truly as close to paradise as you will ever experience on Earth, but it doesn’t come without its dangers.
Visitors to the islands are often in such over-the-top vacation mode (with good reason!), they often leave common sense behind. Or they think to themselves, “I came all this way, I’m not letting a ‘danger’ sign stop me now! Everybody’s doing it!” Well, this post is intended to help us all remember, “Safety first!” Yes, even in paradise!
Respect the Water
It’s beautiful, it’s mesmerizing, and it’s exciting. But the ocean is also dangerous, even if you know what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid of it—respect it. Understand that it’s not just strong, it’s powerful. Understand that there’s a whole other world under there, one to be explored, but also protected from human disruption.
Some general rules to follow are:
- Don’t jump in if you don’t know what’s down there or how deep it is.
- Do know how to float. This can keep you alive if you get caught in a rip current.
- If it doesn’t feel safe, don’t do it.
- Know your ability, but more importantly, know your limitations. A swim in the lake or a pool is not the same as a swim in the ocean.
- Use reef safe sunscreen. With as many people as visit Hawaii and go in the water, that’s a lot of unscreen that goes into the ocean, including both straight from bodies and down the drains when it gets washed off in the shower. Sea life, including coral, will thank you!
Looking for a beach read? The Ultimate List of Books to Read Before Your Trip to Hawaii
Wear Real Shoes for Hiking
This is not the moment for flip flops or sandals! Some trails in the Hawaiian islands are well-maintained, and a few are even paved. But the vast majority of hikes have rugged terrain, steep inclines, and involve loose ground! Reduce your chances of falling, getting cuts on your feet, and losing your footing (hello, torn ACL!) and simply wear real shoes!
Bring Water Shoes
Speaking of protecting your feet, you will want water shoes. Even if you don’t plan to go in the water, bring a pair anyway! The sand in Hawaii is generally… chunky. As in, you’ll be stepping on rough pieces of rock, shell, and broken coral, all of which can cut your feet. Just ask my husband. After getting a bloody foot gash during a romantic walk on a Maui beach, he always packs his water shoes!
More here: 5 Things Your Forgot to Pack for Hawaii
Use (Reef Safe) Sunscreen
I know you can go without it at hone and be fine, but Hawaii’s sun is pretty strong! Why be uncomfortable for your entire trip because you got cocky your first day? (Trust me, I know from experience!) Wear your sunscreen, especially on your face, and bring a hat, too!
Take it from my dermatologist: Your Ultimate Guide to Sunscreen
Hike or Swim with a Buddy (or Make a Buddy)
Hiking and swimming are two of the best things to do in the Hawaiian islands. But both can also turn dangerous in a hurry. If you’re traveling to Hawaii solo, go you! Just be sure to make friends, or at least be around other people at the beach or on popular hikes. You’d probably be fine, but there is safety in numbers. I’m a huge advocate for solo travel, or even taking a break from your travel companions when necessary (and sometimes it is!), but it’s definitely safer to hike or swim with someone else.
More here: Solo Travel Safety
Respect the Animals
Just as there’s safety for people in numbers, it’s safer for animals to leave them alone. Many are endangered or protected, like monk seals, sea turtles, and coral (yes, coral is a living thing), and others are simply wild. Don’t challenge a wild boar, shark, or other animal in the islands. It’s for your safety and theirs!
See monk seals on Ni’ihau: Your Sneak Peek at Hawaii’s Forbidden Isle
Bring a refillable water bottle, and keep it with you! The flight to the islands will be more dehydrating than you think, and that gorgeous Hawaiian sunshine will also make you sweat throughout your trip. Don’t forget to hydrate throughout the day.
Keep reading: The Best Tips to Visit Hawaii Like a Pro
Watch the Local News for Weather, Wave, and Tide Information
This is especially important for those of us who live in landlocked areas. Personally, I’m a Tennessee girl–I don’t know anything useful about waves and tides! That is, I didn’t until I started hearing about them on the morning news while in Hawaii. Just remember that the water is powerful, and the weather can be entirely different from one part of the island to another. Know what the wave and weather situations are, but be ready to be flexible, too.
Use Common Sense
Don’t leave this at home! Any time I talk to people in the travel industry–flight attendants, hotel staff, waitstaff, etc.–they all say the same thing about customers: It’s like they leave all common sense at home! I know it’s all new and exciting and different on vacation, but seriously, folks, watch where you’re going, look both ways, and if it seems dangerous, reconsider.
Want more? Check out my Hawaiian Islands Page for everything you need to know!
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