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Staying Safe in Hawaii

With our tropical climate and breathtaking scenery, Hawaii is what many people consider paradise. In fact, visitors consistently give Hawaii high marks for our natural beauty, safety and security. But even in paradise, precautions should be taken to avoid an unpleasant situation. On this page, you'll find information about ocean safety, driving safety and more. 

For more information about safety while traveling in Hawaii, watch the video below, or take look at the electronic version of our travel safety guide

Video: Enjoying Hawaii Safely

We want you to enjoy your stay and also be safe during your visit. This video will provide you with some safety tips to consider during your time in the islands. Please take a moment to watch it carefully so you can have a safe and fun experience in Hawai‘i.

Safety Information

Ocean Safety

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:
Island of Hawaii

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 special 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.

The Hawaii Beach Safety website is 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.

Protect Against Mosquito Bites

Although mosquitoes can be found year-round in Hawaii’s warm climate, summer is peak season. Mosquitoes can act as carriers of diseases, such as zika, dengue and chikungunya, which are primarily transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Fortunately, none of these diseases are native to Hawaii, nor are they being spread locally at this time. Help prevent mosquito bites, and the risk of diseases being transmitted, by applying EPA-registered insect repellent containing 20-30% DEET, and wearing light-colored long-sleeved shirts, pants and shoes when outdoors, especially at sunrise and sunset when mosquitoes are most active. For more information, visit

Pedestrian Safety

Be a safe, smart pedestrian and know the rules. Review information provided by the Hawaii Department of Transportation at Walk Wise Hawaii, a program aimed at helping pedestrians be safer. Information is available in Japanese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Samoan, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean languages.

Personal Safety

The majority of visitors to Hawaii will never have to deal with crimes like theft, but it’s always a good idea to practice basic personal safety precautions when exploring our islands.
  • Keep valuables in your hotel room or a hotel safe. When out for the day, keep essentials with you. 
  • Keep an eye on your belongings while on the beach.
  • If you must leave items in your trunk, place them there prior to arriving at your destination.
  • Carry travelers checks instead of large amounts of cash. Divide money and credit cards. 

Sun Protection

Enjoying Hawaii’s tropical climate means being sun-smart and wearing proper sun protection at all times. Even when the sun is hidden by clouds, protect yourself from ultraviolet rays that come through. Before going out for the day, liberally apply sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating of 30 or higher, and reapply after swimming. Please bring reef-safe sunscreen that doesn't contain hazardous chemicals used in many sunscreens. Those chemicals cause bleaching of coral and damage the islands' ocean habitat. You may also consider wearing a brimmed hat, sunglasses and long-sleeved shirt and pants for added protection from the sun's rays.

Visitor Assistance

Hawaii is a beautiful place to visit, but even in paradise unpleasant situations can occur. If you experience any adversity, such as an accident, medical emergency or serious illness, or if you become a victim of a crime and have a police report, please call the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH). Have your police report number handy when you call.

Here is the contact information for VASH offices on the major Hawaiian Islands:

Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (Oahu)
Phone: (808) 926-8274

Visitor Aloha Society of Kauai
Phone: (808) 482-0111

Maui Visitors Bureau (Maui County)
Phone: (808) 244-3530

Visitor Aloha Society of West Hawaii (Island of Hawaii – Kona)
Phone: (808) 756-0785

Visitor Aloha Society of East Hawaii (Island of Hawaii – Hilo)
Phone: (808) 756-1472

Civil Defense

Hawaii's state Civil Defense Agency has developed a warning system to alert the public in the case of an emergency. If you hear Civil Defense sirens (a steady siren tone for three minutes and repeated if necessary), listen to your car radio, turn on the television or ask hotel personnel for emergency instructions. Please note that Civil Defense sirens are routinely tested at 11:45 am on the first working day of each month.

Emergency Broadcast Stations

Designated radio stations will broadcast important information if an emergency occurs, such as flash floods and other events.

Island of Hawaii:
670 AM KPUA (Hilo)
850 AM KHLO (Hilo)
94.7 FM KWXX (Hilo)
97.9 FM KKBG (Hilo)
106.1 FM KLEO (Kona)

93.5 FM KQNG


590 AM and 92.3 FM KSSK
96.3 FM KRTR

Foreign-Language Radio Stations that Broadcast Emergency-Related Information:
1210 AM KZOO (Japanese)
1270 AM KNDI (Samoan, Marshallese, Visayan, Tagalog, Cantonese)
1540 AM KREA (Korean)

Watches and Warnings

Watches and warnings are prepared for The Hawaiian Islands by the National Weather Service Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu. When watches and warnings are issued, visitors should closely monitor radio, television or NOAA Weather Radio for official bulletins of the event's progress and instructions from Civil Defense authorities.

The following descriptions are provided to assist you in understanding the various watches, warnings and advisories that could be issued:

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch: 
Hurricane/tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Warning:
Hurricane/tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours.

Flood Advisory:
Exercise caution due to hazardous driving conditions. Be alert for ponding and debris on roadway, slippery roads and poor visibility.

Flood Watch:
Flooding is possible. Be alert!

Flash Flood Warning:
Flooding is imminent or already occurring. Get to high ground if you are in a flood-prone area.

Tsunami Watch:
Issued by Pacific Tsunami Warning Center after distant earthquakes with potential to create a tsunami in Hawaii. Tsunami waves are possible. Visit their website for tsunami advisories.

Urgent Local Tsunami Warning:
Issued when a local earthquake has occurred and damaging waves are probable. Wave travel time may be as short as 10–20 minutes.

In addition to information from state and county Civil Defense agencies and other emergency responders, visitors staying at hotel properties will be provided with information on what to do during various crisis situations. Emergency procedures for your hotel can typically be found in the back of the information compendium in your guest room.

Emergency Shelters

In the case of a severe emergency, such as a hurricane, the Civil Defense warnings on the radio and television stations may advise you to evacuate further inland, to higher ground or to an emergency shelter. These shelters are located primarily at schools and parks. It's important to note that shelters do not stock supplies, so if possible, bring food, water, clothing, blankets, medicines and other necessities.

Additional Tips

Visit the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources website for State Parks Division safety tips. You can also visit the Hawaii Tourism Authority's Special Alerts page for information on how the HTA keeps visitors informed and safe during any crisis situation that may occur.

For more detailed safety information, view our online Travel Safety Guide.

Driving Safely in Hawaii

Hitting the road on your Hawaii vacation? Learn the basics of driver safety before you buckle in.