Ocean Safety in Hawaii | Go Hawaii

Ocean Safety

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Staying Safe in the Ocean

Hawaii is famous for its beautiful beaches and ocean activities, but Hawaii’s coastal areas are created by nature, and therefore can be quite volatile and dangerous; always use common sense and enjoy these areas with care. Ocean conditions around the islands vary according to seasons, weather and location, so it's best to swim in areas where lifeguards are present. Warning signs on the beach indicate dangerous surf, so please heed the signs and stay out of the water. Also, be aware that you shouldn't stand on coral reefs.  

Here’s a beach tip that the locals know: Don’t turn your back on the waves. They come in sets, so a few minutes of large waves may be separated by a few minutes of deceiving calm. If you are caught in a strong current, wave to signal for help.

Click below for current ocean conditions for the following islands: StatewideKauaiOahuMauiIsland of Hawaii

Look Out For

Pay Special Attention to Children

Please keep your eyes on your keiki (kids) at all times. Lifeguards are not babysitters, and they are responsible for the safety of the entire beach. If your child is playing on the sand, pay attention to the waves; it may seem peaceful for a few minutes, until the next set rolls in. Flotation devices and air mattresses can also be dangerous in the ocean, leading children into deeper water. Remember, most incidents occur suddenly and in the shallow areas close to shore.

Box Jellyfish

Once a month, Hawaii’s beaches are visited by carybdea alata, also known as box jellyfish. Named for their boxy shape, the jellyfish are carried by the tides into Hawaiian waters to spawn eight to 12 days after every full moon. They range from one to three inches wide, with tentacles up to two feet long. Stings from these deceivingly gentle-looking creatures can be extremely painful and dangerous, especially to those with allergies. Whenever you enter the ocean, it's always a good idea to check the sand and shallow areas first to see if box jellyfish are present. If you're not sure, ask a lifeguard. Go to www.hawaiibeachsafety.com for a great resource to find more information.

Coral Reefs

The coral reefs around our islands are made of millions of individual coral organisms that thrive in the oxygen-rich waters along the shore. In addition to hundreds of species of fish, the reef is also home to sea anemone, crustaceans and many varieties of seaweed. While these reefs are beautiful to behold, it's best to look but not touch. When snorkeling, take care to keep your fins away from the coral heads. Even light scrapes from your fins can damage the delicate coral. In addition to being very fragile, coral can cause nasty cuts and abrasions. If you receive a coral cut, make sure you clean it well with fresh water and see a doctor if inflammation occurs. Some sea anemone have protective spikes that release a venom to ward off predators (including people), and of course you should never poke your fingers into holes because eels and other creatures will defend their territory with their teeth.