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Ocean & Outdoor Safety on Maui

Ocean & Outdoor Safety on Maui

If in doubt, don’t go out!

Don’t feed anything that will bite you

Look before you leap!

Dangerous Weather & Climate

Dangerous Surf

Dangerous Creatures

Other Dangers

Maui is a paradise, but it is also an isolated island surrounded by ocean. There are many adventures and experiences to be had, but there are also hidden dangers here too. These tips are some information intended to make you aware of some of the hidden dangers, and to help keep you safe. Ocean and Outdoor safety should be important to everyone. This advice may be second nature to some people, but other people may be hearing it for the first time. Not everyone knows these dangers exist and they may get into danger without realizing it until it is too late.

Maui Lifeguards and rescue services do their best to protect people from dangers, but they cannot be everywhere at once. Many beaches and areas are not patrolled, and many are remote and are isolated from rescue services. So the best policy is for everyone to be informed of the dangers and to take responsibility for their own safety. In any emergency call 9-1-1

Do not disturb marine Life:

When onshore you may encounter a nesting turtle, or a sleeping monk seal. Please respect these creatures and keep your distance, and appreciate them from afar. Do not allow children or pets to harass or disturb these creatures. When you are snorkeling you should not get in the way of turtles or attempt to touch them or ride them. Larger creatures like monk seals and sharks should not be approached or touched. Whales are protected by the marine mammal protection law which prohibits people from approaching the whales and dolphins within 200 feet.

Do not feed the marine Life:

Do not feed the fish, you may attract predators, or incite predatory behavior in otherwise harmless species. Your hand or other body parts could be mistaken for a food item, and you could lose an appendage.

Do not Dive into the water:

This goes for freshwater streams, and near beaches too. If you do not know exactly how deep and clear the water is, then don’t dive headfirst into anything. Many people dive into shallow water, or hit a rock or other debris, and get head/neck trauma. If you must jump, jump feet first!

Cliff Jumping:

This is one of the most dangerous things that causes the most injuries. Depth of streams changes daily, and the water is usually murky making it impossible to tell the depth. Even jumping feet first will not prevent injuries.

Diving into the surf:

This is the number one cause of head injuries. Maui has many rocks and coral outcroppings that lurk beneath the waves.

Accidental Head Neck injuries; getting worked in the shore break:

The local body-surfers you see on Maui are very experienced, and can play in the waves, But this activity is what causes a strikingly high number of spinal injuries on Maui. Especially on Big Beach (but anywhere with a shore-break), there are regular injuries. Many people who are unfamiliar with the wave action, or people who underestimate the power of the wave, can get into trouble. If in doubt, do not attempt to body-surf in the shore-break.


It looks easy when you see the local kids do it. But this can easily cause you to hit the hard sand with a lot of force, and you can break, dislocate, or hurt any part of your body. Leave this activity to the kids.

Do not step on or touch coral.

Coral can cut scrape and puncture you, Coral cuts can contain venom and/or infectious organisms. Treat any coral cut seriously, and seek medical attention for any deep wounds, or if infection worsens. If there is redness or tenderness at any wound site three days after a coral cut see a doctor, because you may have an infection or worse. Sea Urchins locally known as Wana, will poke you too.

Sting Ray Stings:

Stingrays can sting with their tail barbs, they can cut, poison and puncture. The barbs can break off and penetrate deeply into the body. Stingray stings are very painful, buy the worse danger is damage from the spines themselves. See medical attention immediately, and do not remove the spine. the spine is serrated, barbed and brittle, and can cause greater damage when removed. Keep the spine in place, and let the doctor remove it later.

Standup Paddle-boarding:

This sport looks easy, but it gets a lot of people into trouble. Most people cannot paddle against any sort of wind. Even a light breeze is too much to paddle against. People get blown away from shore and get lost at sea. this happens a lot. To avoid this happening to you, Never go in an offshore wind!, and never paddle alone. Always stay close to shore. If the wind starts blowing come back to shore immediately. And never go further out than you can swim. But if you do get into trouble, always stay with your board. Always use the board leash too. A SUP can blow away from you faster than you can swim.

Do Not SUP where people are Surfing:

Do not ride your SUP among surfers, if you fall your large board can hit a lot of people, SUP boards are hard to control in the surf, and usually have no business being there. Only the most experiences SUP riders can surf among surfers. Do not try this unless you are an expert. You will risk the other person’s life and maybe your own. Another reason not to surf with a  SUP is that most people can not handle the board and get hit by their own board. Learn to surf a regular surfboard before attempting to surf a SUP. Never SUP Surf close to other people, always use a SUPboard leash.

Do Not Surf where people are Swimming:

Surfers and swimmers don’t mix. Surfboards can hit a swimmer and hurt them. If there are swimmers swimming, you should surf somewhere else. Same goes for swimming,. Do not swim where you see people surfing. Learn the proper surfing etiquette before surfing in a crowd.

Do not Surf/Swim at Night:

Do not swim/surf at night: the ocean is not the right place to swim at night. You cannot see hazards, you could be mistaken for a food item, you cannot get help. Help cannot find you. Professional Scuba night-divers only please.

Hiking and Exploring:

Unless you know the trail, don’t do the trail. There could be a cliff, or who-knows-what just ahead. There are many “trails” made by wild pigs and goats that humans simply cannot handle. Loose surfaces, and steep grades, make for some impossible situations, and may require rescue to get out of. If you want to hike, go with the local companies that have experienced guides, like “Hike Maui”.

Flash Floods:

Also be aware that any stream, wet or dry can suddenly get a flash flood. (See the Maui Extreme Weather Page).

Waves Surging & Blowholes:

Walking along the shoreline on the rocks can be dangerous as waves can suddenly and violently come ashore and wash people into the ocean, This is the leading cause of death in the ocean environment.

Be careful when getting close to blowholes, these are dangerous places, Never venture too close or attempt to look inside one.

Rock Climbing:

Maui has volcanic crumbly sharp rock which is no good for rock-climbing. it breaks easily, and is subject to frequent rock falls, Just being close to a cliff is dangerous. The closest thing to rock-climbing we have on Maui is Zip-lining (which is much safer).

Swimming under waterfalls:

Maui has many waterfalls that are spectacular and exciting. They seem to beckon a person to swim under them. But remember that these are active geographical features that are dynamic and high energy. That means that the action of the water can move large rocks, and the cliff-face is constantly being reshaped by the water. If you look at the base of the falls, you will see all of the smashed rocks that came over the falls. If you swim in the falls you can get hit by falling rocks or get caught under a collapsing rock slide. Be warned!.

Crossing the Street:

Hawaii has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the country. Cars do not automatically stop at crosswalks. Maybe it is the law but it is seldom followed. It might have something to do with the scenery being so distracting. You should always be extra careful crossing the street day or night. Also in many areas there are no proper sidewalks, so you should avoid walking on streets like these. If you must walk at night, you should carry a flash light to make yourself more visible.

Lifeguarded Beaches:

Wherever possible swim at a guarded beach, Maui County lifeguards are patrolling the following beaches (see list below). Please swim near the towers and follow the direction of the lifeguards,. swim in the designated zones, and always ask the lifeguards if you are unsure about the conditions. Lifeguards are in duty 8:00am – 4:30pm as part of the island wide 911 Emergency system.

Hazard Warning Signs:

Lifeguards can place warning signs and beaches and the shorelines to warn the public about ocean hazards. Here are the ten hazards to be aware of:

  1. Dangerous Shore Break
  2. Strong Current
  3. High Surf
  4. Shark Sighted
  5. Sudden Drop Off
  6. Waves Break on Ledge
  7. Man-o-War
  8. Jelly Fish
  9. Sharp Coral
  10. Slippery Rock

In emergency call 911 immediately

Southside Beaches:

LG 1 – Kamaole 1

LG 2 – Kamaole 2

LG 3 – Kamaole 3

Each beach is slightly different, these beaches are good for snorkeling in the early morning, but in the afternoons the trade winds pick up an make the water too rough.  KAM1 is a great all round exercise beach, KAM2 is a peaceful family beach, KAM3 features large grassy areas great for BBQs and Picnics.

Westside Beaches:

LG 4 – Hanakao’o Beach Park (aka Canoe Beach). North of Lahaina Town, and  South of Kaanapali Beach

LG 5 – DT Fleming Beach Park. Just North of Kapalua, great for body boarding, kayaking and surfing.

Makena State Beach Park:

Big Beach (Oneloa”): This beach is popular among skim boarders, and bodysurfers, it is also great for walking and swimming, However this beach is known for its Dangerous Shore break, which can cause serious injury. There are two Lifeguard towers there.

North Shore Beaches:

LG 6 –  Ho’okipa Beach Park. Minutes east of Paia, Ho’okipa is famous for expert level surfing and windsurfing.

LG 7 – Baldwin Beach Park. Just west of Paia town, a very popular beach with local families. Great for body boarding, and surfing.

LG 8 – Kanaha Beach Park. Located minutes from downtown Kahului, Kanaha is known for great windsurfing kiteboarding, and surfing conditions and scenic beach areas.


In any Emergency call 9-1-1


David Dorn and the Action Team