For all of Hawaii’s natural beauty, some of what makes this such a beautiful place also makes it dangerous. A perfect example of this is the spectacular surf that arrives at the North Shore each winter. It is certainly as deadly as it is amazing to watch.
The most important thing beachgoers should do is consult with lifeguards about conditions at the beach that day. Let them know your experience level and ask about any potential dangers that can’t be seen from the beach. Avoid beaches without lifeguard towers.
Rip tides are invisible and incredibly powerful. The biggest mistake people make when caught in a rip tide is to swim instinctively toward shore. But rip tides run perpendicular to the shore, so the surest and safest way to get out of a rip tide is to swim parallel to shore. If that doesn’t work, signal to a lifeguard that you’re in trouble.
It’s a common cliché to “never turn your back on the ocean”. It’s good advice, however, as ocean conditions can change instantly, and what may seem like a perfectly calm and safe place to enjoy the ocean can become very dangerous in a matter of moments. Pay attention to your surroundings.
Hawaii has an unusually high traffic fatality rate. Many accidents involve a rental vehicle, or drivers inexperienced with driving conditions here. On Oahu, a traffic law provides pedestrians the right-of-way in crosswalks, and provides for severe fines for drivers that fail to yield for pedestrians.
Many common sense driving practices on the mainland are casually regarded or ignored completely here. For instance, many Hawaii drivers do not use the far left lane as a passing lane, passing slower cars in that lane on the right, creating a traffic hazard not usually encountered elsewhere. Driving alertly and defensively is the best way to avoid a collision.
Hawaii’s many open-air shopping malls, retail districts, and public areas pose a significant risk of serious injury from slipping and falling due to the exposure to rain and wind. Covered shoes can reduce the risk of injury from falls. It’s also important to use handrails on stairs and escalators to minimize that risk. Those with small children should always hold their hands to keep them safe and keep a family outing from becoming an emergency.