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A trip to paradise can carry hidden hazards

A trip to paradise can carry hidden hazards

January 2, 2012

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.

Photo courtesy Hawaii Photos

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