While Hawaii is a notoriously safe place to travel in terms of crime, nature is the real force to be reckoned with while adventuring in the tropical stomping grounds of the Aloha State. Though locals and visitors alike are not immune to the dangers lurking in some of the world’s most stunning locations, a 2017 report showed that a startling 72% of drownings on Maui happen to visitors.
In an effort to raise awareness about the risks of traveling in Hawaii, we’ve compiled some excellent safety tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe and informed for your next trip to The Valley Isle.
Maui Top Safety Tips
With annual visitor numbers reaching a record high of 9,380,000 in 2017, it’s imperative to get the word out about safe travel in the Hawaiian Islands. Have your own tips to add to the list? Get in touch and we’d love to feature them!
Don’t overestimate your swimming abilities.
The majority of accidents on Maui occur in or around the ocean. In fact, Hawaii’s rate of drownings is 13 times the national average, a number the state is aware of and is working hard to rectify. While a large portion of drownings on Maui seem to occur while snorkeling, rip currents, bodyboarding incidents and falling or being swept into the ocean are also concerns.
If you haven’t been snorkeling since that family trip to Cancun a decade ago, avoid the temptation to rent snorkel gear and go out on your own. Instead, join a small guided snorkeling tour with a qualified local guide, inform them of any limitations or reservations you may have, wear a floatation device (even just until you to get used to swimming in the ocean again), and always swim with a buddy.
When going swimming in the ocean, be sure to take a few minutes to watch the intensity of the waves before getting in. On beaches such as Makena’s Big Beach, the shore break can be intense, causing you to get slammed down into the sand in an instant. Serious spinal cord injuries occur on this beach, in particular, every year. Watch, assess the conditions, and do not overestimate your abilities. If you are worried about getting past the waves and are not extremely good at treading water, you can easily get yourself in a dangerous position in no time at all.
In addition, if you find yourself being dragged out to sea in a rip current, do not panic. It may seem counterintuitive to let the current take you where it wants, but fighting against it is useless and will tire you out quickly. Save energy and go with the current, swimming parallel to the beach, and signal for help from the nearest lifeguard, surfer, swimmer or beachgoer.
Master the local driving etiquette.
Home to one of the world’s best road trips, Maui’s roads are to be navigated with a certain degree of caution. While we are fortunate not to be plagued with hardcore traffic like our Oahu neighbors, drivers on Maui should be aware of the local driving etiquette before embarking on adventures up to the summit of Haleakala Volcano or the Road to Hana.
While it may be tempting to stop your car to snap a photo of that cascading waterfall, breaching whale or beaming rainbow, remember to pull over first! If a driver is tailing you on the Road to Hana, chances are they live here and are just trying to make it home. Don’t take it personally. Even if it’s another antsy traveler, pull over and let them around you instead of making a point by keeping – or slowing – your pace.
Additionally, keep your eyes on the road at all times. Animals like axis deer and cows have been known to jump out in front of unlucky drivers, and steep, wet and windy roads are par for the course. Stick to the speed limits and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Honking is generally reserved for emergencies only, and small acts like letting others in to merge or allowing pedestrians to cross is common practice. Finally, Maui now has Uber, so there’s no excuse to drive intoxicated after indulging in one too many craft cocktails (hey, we can’t blame you).
Photo by Peter Rimkus.
Avoid unnecessary risks.
Part of being safe when traveling is learning when to say no, and erring on the side of caution. Just because you see the locals cliff diving doesn’t mean you should do it as well. Chances are they have been diving this exact spot for years and know the terrain, both above and under the water, way better than you ever will. Watch, enjoy and skip the personal liability.
Similarly, spots like Nakalele Blowhole, located in northwest Maui, pose threats to travelers who unknowingly – or knowingly – get too close and get swept into the blowhole itself or the pounding waves just outside of it. Keep a safe distance by standing only on dry land and admiring the action from afar.
If there is heavy rain, keep an eye on possibilities of a flash flood. Do not plan major hikes, especially through dense jungle areas on the Road to Hana, on days when heavy rainfall is expected, as it does not even need to be raining exactly where you are for a flash flood to occur. On that same note, while standing beneath a gorgeous waterfall may make for a lovely profile picture, beware of falling debris like rocks and branches, which can easily pick up speed on their journey from the top of the falls to the top of your head. Avoid unnecessary risks and thank yourself later.
Bring a buddy.
Even if you are planning a solo adventure around Maui, there is no excuse to embark on potentially dangerous missions on your own. Whether you’re planning a hiking and overnight camping adventure in the crater of Haleakala Volcano, or going on a West Maui shore dive to get an up close look at Maui’s local marine life, don’t go it alone. With so many outdoor enthusiasts in one place, rest assured that there are always plenty of opportunities to make friends on your quest for adventure.
While mother nature is busy throwing her glorious beauty in your face, common risks like sun poisoning and dehydration are the ones you never see coming. Though 10 mai tais by your resort pool may seem like the perfect way to celebrate your arrival in Hawaii, be sure to drink plenty of water and electrolytes as well. The sun in Hawaii is intense, and reapplying reef-safe sunscreen throughout the day is necessary for those who want to avoid returning home with a souvenir of newly acquired sun damage.
It is also recommend to bring plenty of sun protection with you – like hats, long sleeve rash guards, sunglasses and beach umbrellas – especially on days you know you’ll be spending lots of time in the direct sunlight, such as during a kayak tour, surf lesson, snorkeling tour or hiking excursion.
Should anything go wrong, consult the following safety resources on Maui:
- Emergency: 911
- American Red Cross Maui Office: 808-244-0051
- Report a Disaster Hotline: 808-537-1615
- Coast Guard Emergency: 808-842-2600
- Maui Memorial Hospital: 808-244-9056
- Women Helping Women: 808-242-6600
- Maui Emergency Shelters
- Hurricane Preparedness
- Pacific Tsunami Warning Center: 808-689-8207
- Disaster Radio Station: KPOA 93.5
- Disaster TV Station: KITV Channel 4
Mahalo for reading, and stay safe out there!