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Maui Ocean Safety


Maui Ocean Safety – BE BEACH SMART

SECURITY: Theft is a big problem at all beaches and parks in Hawaii. Thieves will break windows to get into cars. Always lock your car, do not take valuables to the beach, do not lose your car key in the ocean, do not lock your keys is your car. I would not recommend staying around any beaches after sunset. There are a few thug types that hang out there that will take advantage of isolated or solitary people. Numerous assaults have happened at beach parks to unsuspecting tourists. Even if a local appears friendly and offers to sell you some “weed” (Called “pakalolo” in Hawaiian) in the privacy of the bushes, Don’t go with them.
SUN SMART: Most visitors do not realize how strong the sun is in Hawaii. Many people will get badly sunburned in their first hour in the sun. The sun is strongest in the middle of the day, and you could burn in as little as 30 minutes. You usually wont feel the sunburn until the next day. Avoid exposure to the sun, especially from 10am to 2pm. Wear Sunscreen on all exposed skin. Reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating. reapply every 15 minutes or so. If you are doing water activities, make sure you get a good waterproof sunscreen. Always use a “Reef-Safe” sunscreen, because some sunscreens can harm the reef. It is good to use a gel and/or a chap-stick sunscreen for lips, noses and ears because they don’t wash off as easily. In addition to sunscreen it is also advisable to wear long sleeve shirts and a hat. To protect your eyes from sun damage you can wear polarized sunglasses. For swimming most people will want to wear a Lycra rash-guard. A rash-guard is a Lycra shirt designed to be worn in the water. There are now also looser fit woven fabric shirts for watersports too. These are available at any surf store. Most people do not stay hydrated when in the sun or exercising. Make sure to drink plenty of water. Drinking juices and sweet sodas can actually make you more dehydrated.
DRINK SMART: Most people do not stay hydrated when in the sun or exercising. Make sure to drink plenty of water. Drinking juices and sweet sodas is not recommended because it can actually make you more dehydrated. Drinking beer at the beach is one of the worst things you can do. Alcohol accelerates dehydration, and can lead to the early onset of heatstroke. Definitely do not drink if you are attempting any physical exercise or water sport. Better to fill your cooler with; water, flavored waters, Gatorade lite, type drinks.

Dehydration increases risk of heart attack and stroke: A lot of elderly people have died while snorkeling from strokes and heart attacks. The physical exertion is one factor, but being dehydrated can also be a contributing factor that can increase the likelihood of a heart attack and stroke. So always be sure to consciously hydrate before all physical activity.

SEA SMART: Do not dive into dirty, murky or shallow water. Do not swim far from shore, do not dive into shallow water, do not dive into the water if you can not clearly see the bottom. After rain many areas will get runoff that is usually dirty or full of debris. Avoid ocean swimming directly after heavy rains. Never turn your back to the ocean. Keep away from the wave action. Set up your beach camp well away from the water’s edge. Large waves can arrive suddenly and wash your gear away. Keep an eye on the ocean at all times.
STAY AWAY FROM FISHERMAN: Stay away from fishermen, their rods, lines, nets, and baits are in and around the water. You do not want to be in the water with dead or dying fish anyway. Keep a watchful eye while sailing because a fishing line is hard to see. It is better to look instead for fishermen with rods on the beach, and assume they have a line out a long way.
STAY AWAY FROM STREAMS: Streams, Storm-water outlets, and rivermo0uths are potentially dangerous. If you set up close to one of these you could find yourself and your gear suddenly washed out to sea. Flash floods are very common in Hawaii, and even if there is sunny skies and no rain in your area, there could be a downpour in the uplands that can cause a flash flood. All of a sudden a stream bed that was dry could be gushing with a strong torrent of water in a short time. During a flash flood even only one foot deep can be too swift to walk across. Streams are no place to hang out or let your kids play in one unattended.
OFFSHORE WINDS: Take care when the wind sometimes shifts offshore. Blowing from the land toward the sea. Do not sail, ride, paddle, or swim further out than you are prepared to swim back in. When the wind is northeast on the south shore, nothing stands between you and Tahiti should you break down. There is a small chance you could hit the island of Kooholawe depending on the currents etc, but this is definitely not recommended. People have been stuck out in the water overnight on windsurfers. Better to sail with a buddy and have someone looking out for you too. It is always a good idea for someone to know that you are missing and call 911 before it gets completely dark.
SWIM AT PATROLLED BEACHES (But not all of them)
Only certain beaches on Maui have lifeguards. If you are new to ocean swimming or want to have a “safer” experience. Then we strongly recommend only swimming at one of the beaches patrolled by Lifeguards. Swim only in the marked swimming areas that are under the watchful eye of the lifeguards. Look for notices placed by lifeguards to warn of different ocean conditions. Red flags mean beach closed. Note: Not all patrolled beaches are suitable for Swimming!!

North Shore: Kanaha Beach Park, Baldwin Beach Park,

Swimming not recommended at Ho’okipa Beach Park, but it does have lifeguards.

West Shore: D.T. Fleming Park, Hanakao’o Park.

South Shore: Kamaole 1, Kamaole 2, Kamaole 3,

Big Beach: Be very careful because of shore-break. This beach is not suitable for inexperienced swimmers.


For the current beach conditions and warnings go to the Hawaii Beach Safety Website. 

Hiking on Maui can be Dangerous. Beware of flash floods and rock falls. Stay on marked trails, or take a guided hike. Do not dive into streams, Do not swim close to waterfalls (either above or below them). Many people get hurt each year while hiking. They fall off trails, and cliffs, or get lost, or are stuck overnight in the wilderness. Always hike with a cell phone, but don’t expect to have good phone reception in all areas.

Maui Ocean Safety is about awareness and knowledge. For example, most Hawaiians are taught to respect the ocean from an early age. Their familiarity and mastery of the ocean makes swimming and surfing look easy. You may see some very young keiki (children) flipping over in the waves close to shore and playing like little seals. This may give you a false impression that body-surfing is “Child’s play”.  Tourists unfamiliar with the ocean should take particular care when entering the ocean for the first time, or when using an unfamiliar beach for the first time. The water looks so warm and inviting that people will jump in without taking proper care. It is best to swim at a patrolled beach with a swimming area until you get your sea-legs. Watch the water before you enter, look for rocks and waves. Watch how the other people enter and exit the water. If in doubt ask the lifeguards. Do not dive in headfirst (this is a big mistake unless you know the water is deep and rock free). Waves can turn you upside down in a second and dump you on your head causing possible neck injury). Please be respectful of all sea creatures, Appreciate them but don’t interfere with them. They are not there just for your amusement, the ocean is their home in which we are a guest. Every marine animal, large and small has a variety of defense mechanisms, which could injure you (or even kill you). Touching them may result in loss of body parts. Having said that the ocean can be enjoyed relatively risk-free if you follow some simple rules:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Stay close to shore.
  • Look before you leap.
  • If in doubt, don’t go out.
  • Avoid dirty/low visibility water.
  • Follow the directions of lifeguards.
  • Never turn your back on the ocean.
  • Stay out of the water after heavy rain.
  • Don’t swim after sunset or before sunrise.
  • Avoid fishermen, skin divers, nets and fishing boats.
  • Comply with posted restrictions, and beach closed signs.
Take a surfing lesson: Do not teach yourself to surf, because not only do you put your own safety at risk, you are also risking the safety of the other people around you. Always take a surfing lesson from a professional instructor. They can show you how to negotiate the wave zone and help you avoid many of the common missteps that novice surfers make. There are also surf-guides for advanced surfers that will show you where it is good to surf and how to navigate a new surf spot. 
Beware of the Surf Zone: Unless you want to be deliberately in the ocean, then you should always stay beyond the reach of the Waves. Many people get dragged into the ocean accidentally because they were unaware of the reach of the waves. Your first clue will be wet sand or wet rocks. If the area you are sitting is wet, then it is within the reach of the waves. Waves do not all come at once so the big wave may only come after 5, 10, 15 minutes or so. Waves will often surprise people with their suddenness and unexpectedness. So be warned: Usually, the safest place to be at a beach is up at the vegetation line. Once you are on the slope of the beach you are within the reach of the waves. Also when at any shoreline, especially on rocky ledges do not get close to the ocean’s edge. Waves can suddenly and violently surge up onto shore and drag everything back into the ocean. Sadly many people die from this in Hawaii (and other places).
The first 10 feet of the ocean edge is the most dangerous! Watch out when wading or just standing in knee deep water. this is when you are very vulnerable. Many people say they “feel safer” when they do not go out too deep. If they are weak swimmers or non-swimmers, or fully clothed, they tend to stay in this wading zone. This is not a safe place to be, especially for a non-swimmer. It is very easy to lose your footing when wading. And then it is a short trip to deeper water or getting rolled over and smashed by a wave. Countless injuries occur in waist deep water from waves knocking people over and dumping them on their heads (even experienced swimmers!)
Never turn your back on the ocean! Always keep your eye on the ocean even when sitting on the beach. Always face the ocean so you can see the waves approaching. Never turn your back on family or friends swimming in the ocean, and never let children play in the ocean or beach unattended.