For many, Hawaii – with its warm waters, gentle weather, unforgettable
beaches and aloha spirit – is a top travel destination. But while
the island's superb scenery is a leading attraction for travelers
across the globe, their natural, untapped beauty also conceals countless
unknown dangers, which can leave vacationers with more than just a stinging sunburn.
In Hawaii, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death, making water
safety one of the foremost areas of concern for tourists. In the past
year alone, there have been several high-profile drowning incidents where
guests were caught unaware and paid the ultimate price.
When on vacation, many travelers turn to guidebooks for recommendations
on popular local hotspots. In the past five years, Kipu Falls, a popular
swimming hole on Kauai, has claimed the lives of five travelers. The destination,
which was frequently featured in Hawaii travel guides until the past few
years claimed its most recent victim in June when a 35-year-old from Irvine,
California drowned. In most incidents at Kipu Falls, swimmers jumping
from the top of the waterfall into the waters 20 feet below were drowned,
held underwater by a powerful whirlpool current. Within the last year,
visitors have suffered so many injuries at the destination – including
chest injuries, rope burns, perforated eardrums as well as broken bones
and sprains – that the Kauai Visitors Bureau launched a campaign
encouraging guidebooks and travel writers to remove the swimming pool
as a visitor destination and asking hotel concierges to discourage visits
to the pool.
Another popular draw for visitors is of course, the islands' scenic
shoreline. One of the oceans more powerful attractions, blowholes, are
striking to view up close, but have proved fatal when not approached with
caution. In July of this year, a 44-year-old visitor from Northern California
drowned when he was sucked into the geyser-like spout and disappeared
into the ocean at Nakalele Point on Maui. The victim's fiancé
filed a complaint that there should have been warning signs posted to
make visitors aware of the danger, however since the blowhole was on private
property, property owners were not required to put up signs. The last
incident involving a fatality at a blowhole in Hawaii was in 2002 when
an 18-year-old from California fell into the Halona blowhole on Oahu and drowned.
Before planning your itinerary and heading out for a day of sightseeing
and activities, take care to remember these precautions recommended by
TripAdvisor to keep you and your ohana safe.
- Always swim with a partner and let others in your group know where you
will be swimming and when you can be expected to return.
- Be aware of changes in the weather. If there are any signs of a storm nearing,
get out of the water immediately.
- Do your research on what animals live in the water. Jellyfish and Man-of-War
both have been known to cause severe stings and allergic reactions. Visitors
who think they may have been stung should get out of the water immediately
and seek medical attention.
- Never swim out further than you can swim back.
- Swimmers who get caught in an undertow should remember that it's important
to not panic. Allow yourself to move with the flow of the water and then
swim free, towards shore, when the undertow decreases.
- Never turn your back to the ocean.