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Hazards & Dangers

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Maui is generally a safe place, both for visitors and those of us who live here. Our island welcomes nearly 3 million visitors each year, and the vast majority of those people experience nothing more distressing than a sunburn. However, I would be misleading you if I said nothing bad ever happens here. Crime does exist in Maui. And the natural environment poses its own set of dangers: Maui’s mild climate and peaceful, beautiful scenery tend to lull visitors into a false sense of security, sometimes with disastrous results. There is nothing more heartbreaking for me than to hear a news report about a visitor who was badly injured, drowned, or a victim of a crime while on Maui.

Here are some tips to help you be aware and wise so you can enjoy a safe Maui vacation. This information is not meant to frighten you. Maui is a magical place and you will most likely have a fabulous time here and leave with nothing but wonderful memories. But being informed and aware is NEVER a bad thing when traveling

Ocean Danger
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Ocean Danger & Sealife Hazards

I have been an avid surfer and sailor since I was a teenager. I’ve been fortunate to have surfed and sailed all over the world.  But there is nothing I have more respect for than the ocean.  I have had several encounters with the ocean at could have taken my life.  I’ve seen some pretty horrific accidents and drownings that still haunt me today.  So please heed these warnings.  They could save your life. 

Shark Attack
Maui Sharks

Shark Attacks

What are the chances of being attacked by a shark? There are usually 2 to 3 attacks around the Hawaiian Islands per year, but almost always non-fatal. With the millions of people in the ocean around Maui every year, your chances of being attacked are slim to none. There has never been a reported attack on a scuba diver in Hawaiian waters. Snorkelers, swimmers, and surfers are attacked because of their surface activity.  Below are ten tips to fend off a Shark Attack:  (Source Maui Information Guide)

1. Don’t swim at night or during twilight hours.

Sharks in Maui primarily feed at night because they are nocturnal. Feeding during twilight has been debated, but most accepted as a shark behavior. Most believe that they choose sun up and sun down to feed because of the transition that most fish go through to focus on the changing light. Sharks use their sense of smell more than their eyesight, so they don’t worry about their eyes having to focus on a different light. 2/3 of a shark’s brain is dedicated to the sense of smell. This allows them to hunt in murky waters with poor visibility.

2. Stay away from River Mouths and stream outlets.

Sharks are attracted to these areas due to the small fish and other life that gets washed down to the ocean. The waters are usually murky around these areas as well, which puts its prey at a disadvantage while hunting.

3. Stay out of the water after it rains.

Runoff from land will make the water murky and attract sharks inshore.

4. Don’t swim in heavily fished areas or anywhere near active fishermen.

The gutted fish and bait will attract sharks. Fishermen and used to seeing sharks in Hawaii due to the spilling of chum to attract fish.

5. Stay away from murky waters.

Silty areas as well as most shores after a storm can become murky. Sharks enjoy the additional cover it creates during hunting.

6. Swim with a buddy.

Two bodies are much more intimidating than just one. Despite the intimidation factor, your chances of being attacked are cut in half. In crowded waters, you’re odds drop even more.

7. If you encounter a shark: stay calm, and move your body in a vertical position.

Most attacks are when people are lying on the surface of the ocean. Frantic splashing will make you appear to be hurt.

8. Do not enter the ocean with a cut or open wound.

Sharks are attracted to the smell of blood and are said to be able to detect a drop of it from over a mile away.

9. Leave shiny jewelry at home.

The light that reflects off of your bling will look similar to light from the scales of a fish.

10. Don’t urinate in the ocean.

Just like blood, sharks are attracted to urine. Hold it till you find a restroom.


Sealife Hazards
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Sealife Hazards

Box Jelly
Portuguese man o’ wars

In Hawaii, box jelly incidents typically occur along south-facing shores around eight days following a full moon phase. Masses of box jellies tend to remain within inshore habitats for three days. Recently, over 900 beachgoers in Waikiki, Oahu were stung by a large influx of box jellies over the holiday weekend. Wind-driven Portuguese man o’ wars is normally found along north-facing shorelines.

Fortunately, Hawaiian waters are not inhabited by the world’s deadliest box sea jelly species, the sea wasp, so most encounters are not life-threatening. Stings will normally subside on their own, but people who are highly allergic or show signs of breathing difficulty, irregular heartbeat, altered levels of consciousness, or other abnormal symptoms should be treated as a medical emergency.

As we head into summer, please be careful of all ocean conditions and pay attention to any posted warnings by Hawaii’s lifeguards and local media. Prevention is one measure that can be taken to ensure your time at the beach is well-spent and sting-free.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Coral Cuts?

  • The inflamed, swollen, red, tender, and sometimes itchy wound may develop into a festering sore or ulcer with a pustular (infectious) drainage.

  • Spreading redness of the skin around the wounded area suggests expanding infection (cellulitis) and requires immediate medical attention.

  • Red streaks moving up an extremity, especially with pus draining, or a blister more than 3/16 of an inch (5mm) in diameter (bullae) forms require immediate medical attention.

What Are Treatments for Coral Cuts?

  • Scrub with soap and water and then flush with fresh water as soon as possible after contact with the coral.

  • If the wound stings, rinse it with acetic acid (vinegar) or isopropyl alcohol (this action may reduce the effect of any irritating toxins such as those produced by fire coral).

  • Flush the wound or abrasion with a mixture of 1/2 water and 1/2 hydrogen peroxide to remove coral dust and then flush with fresh water for most non-stinging coral cuts or abrasions.

  • Rinse daily and apply an antibiotic such as bacitracin (Baci-IM) or similar topical ointment three to four times per day.

  • Oral antibiotics are usually recommended to prevent infection. If an infection develops, continue taking the antibiotic for at least 5 days after all signs of the infection have resolved. Notify the doctor of any medication allergies the patient has prior to starting an antibiotic. Some antibiotics (for example, tetracyclines) can cause increased sensitivity to the sun (photosensitivity), thus it is recommended to use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 if the area is going to be exposed to sunlight. If a wound develops pus, seek medical treatment.

  • If no evidence of infection or open wound is present, an over-the-counter steroid ointment may be used to relieve itching for a short period of time (a few days).

  • Pain may be relieved with one to two acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 4 hours and/or one to two ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) every 6-8 hours. Do not exceed 3 grams of acetaminophen over a 24-hour time period. Some healthcare professionals prefer to use naproxen (Aleve) for pain relief.

  • Patients that are alcoholics have a tendency to develop bacterial infections by Vibrio spp that can be very aggressive and dangerous (life-threatening) in a short time span. Any redness of skin that progresses rapidly with blisters moving up an extremity (arms or legs) toward the body should be considered a medical emergency and will require IV antibiotics.

Beach & Ocean Hazards
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Ocean & Beach Hazards

A Day on the beach is usually one of the most relaxing thing you can do in Maui, but there are a few things to keep you safe and healthy, and not to mention, keep you from becoming a victim of a crime.  Here are a few common sense tips to make your Beach Day a none eventful beach day.


Obey All Warning Signs

Click on Sign to see the warning.
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High Surf

High Surf: 

Beware of large, powerful waves on these beaches. Seasonal high surf occurs on all shores of all islands. Typically, south-facing shorelines will get high surf during summer months; winter brings monster surf to north- and west-facing beaches. If you are uncertain about your abilities, do not go out.  NEVER TURN YOUR BACK TO THE OCEAN.  Many people have been injured by not paying attention to the waves.  

Dangerous Shorebreak:

Shorebreak can be very powerful when crashing down on swimmers in the surf zone and can result in significant physical injury or drowning. Shorebreak waves breaking directly on the sand can cause spinal injuries when people are thrown into the bottom head first. This can also lead to drowning.

Strong Current: 

These are swift-moving channels of water that are difficult to swim against. Strong currents frequently accompany high surf and rapid tide changes and can be recognized as turbulent channels of water between areas where waves are breaking. If you get caught in a strong current, stay calm and swim diagonally across the current, not against it.

Sharp Coral: 

Most of Hawai‘i’s beaches have sharp coral reefs close to the shoreline. Use caution when swimming in shallow reef areas. Wear foot protection.

Jellyfish Warning: 

If you see these signs, it's best to say out of the water.  Jellyfish come ashore on South facing Hawaii beaches and are most impacted by jellyfish eight days after a full moon.  You are most likely to see jellyfish on south-facing beaches like Wailea, Maalaea (Sugar Beach), and occasionally the north shore.  But jellyfish are not common in Maui.

Shark Warning:

Do not enter the water in this area or anywhere within a 1-mile area of the sighting. If you see or encounter a shark notify Ocean Safety Personnel or call 911 immediately.  Lifeguards will come down the beach and warn people of a possible shark sighting.  GET OUT OF THE WATER IF THERE IS A SHARK SIGHTING!

Caution Falling Coconuts:

Yes, you read that right, death by coconut. Various claims show that death by falling coconuts is more likely to occur than dying from sharks tearing you to pieces. Coconuts kill around 150 people every year, which means you are 10 times more likely to be murdered by a coconut than a shark. The approximate number of deaths by shark attacks worldwide every year is around 5 to 15 people. So before lounging or camping out in that empty shady spot on Maui, make sure that the palm tree above it is not filled with coconuts waiting to unleash their nature terror.

Vehicle Break-ins and Car Theft:

The good news is: Violent crime in Hawaii is substantially lower than on the mainland (35-50% lower by some estimates).  The bad news is: Property crime is much higher in Hawaii than on the mainland. Theft of both cars and personal property is high, and tourists are a popular (and easy) target.  While nothing is a guarantee, you can decrease your chances of being a victim of property crime in Hawaii by leaving valuables at your hotel or Short Term Rental. You definitely don’t want to leave anything visible in your car when you lock it up to head to the beach. Even having a less-fancy rental will probably make you less of a target for those inclined to break into cars.

It can be tough to protect your personal property when you’re at the beach and you want to go in the water. If you’re traveling as a group, it’s always a good choice to take turns so that someone can stay with your stuff – especially at a crowded beach like Ka'anapali where people are constantly walking through.

Strong Currents
Sharp Coral
Jellyfish Warning
Shark Warning
Coconut Falling Sign
Car Break-in
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