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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

As a teenager, I developed a passion for surfing and sailing that has stayed with me throughout my life. I've been incredibly fortunate to have traveled the world and experienced some of the most breathtaking waves and winds. However, despite my love for the ocean, I have the utmost respect for its power and unpredictability.

Over the years, I've had several close calls with the ocean that could have easily taken my life. Witnessing horrific accidents and drownings has left a lasting impact on me, and I urge everyone to take heed of the warnings that come with any ocean activity. These warnings could be the difference between life and death.

Remember, the ocean is a force to be reckoned with, and we must always approach it with caution and respect.

Shark Attacks

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 are 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 blood from over a mile away.

9. Leave shiny jewelry at home.

The light that reflects off 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.

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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 things 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
Strong Currents

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.

Sharp Coral
Jellyfish Warning
Shark Warning
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Car Break-in

Sunburn Hazards

Maui is a popular destination for those seeking sunshine and outdoor activities. However, the sun in Hawaii is some of the strongest in the world, and a bad sunburn can quickly ruin your vacation. To help you avoid this, we have compiled a list of tips to keep you protected while enjoying all that Maui has to offer.

1. Timing is everything. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., so plan your activities accordingly. Opt for early morning or late afternoon golfing, sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling tours.

2. Don't be fooled by cloudy days. Clouds and particulate matter in the air scatter sunlight, which means you can still get burned even on a cloudy day.

3. Protect your head and eyes. Wear a good pair of polarized sunglasses and a hat or other loose-fitting head covering.

4. Use a high SPF sunblock. Choose a sunblock with an SPF of 15 or greater, and apply an ounce of it to your entire body.

5. Apply sunblock early and often. Apply sunblock at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two hours, especially if you have been swimming or sweating.

6. Pay extra attention to vulnerable areas. Use sunblock with higher SPFs on areas that need extra protection, such as the tip of your nose, your ears, the tops of your feet, and your shoulders. Aloe vera gel is also a safe alternative for soothing and protecting skin from sun exposure.

7. Protect your children. Keep them out of the sun during peak hours, and apply sunscreen liberally and frequently to children 6 months of age and older.

8. Be cautious with infants. Do not use sunscreen on children under 6 months of age, and limit their sun exposure as much as possible.

9. Keep in mind that sand and water reflect UV radiation, which implies that sitting under a beach umbrella in the shade does not offer full protection against harmful sun rays.

10. It is advisable to consult with your physician to ensure that the medications you are taking do not increase your vulnerability to sunburn.

11. Use Reef Safe Sunscreen.  (Link to top 16 brands of Reef Save Sunscreens)

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Crime In Maui

The Most Common Crime in Maui is Vehicles Break-ins.

Street crime in Maui, like in many tourist destinations, can occur, but the island generally maintains a relatively low crime rate compared to mainland cities. However, it's always essential to stay vigilant and take precautions to ensure your safety. Here's a summary of street crime in Maui and how to avoid it:

  1. Property Theft: Petty theft, such as stealing belongings from cars or hotel rooms, can occur, especially in tourist areas. Avoid leaving valuables unattended in your car or visible in your hotel room. Utilize hotel safes for passports, cash, and other valuable items.

  2. Car Break-Ins: Thieves sometimes target rental cars, particularly in parking lots near beaches or hiking trails. Keep your rental car locked at all times and avoid leaving any valuables in plain sight. If possible, park in well-lit areas and use car alarms or anti-theft devices.

  3. Scams and Fraud: Be cautious of scams targeting tourists, such as fraudulent tour operators, fake ticket sellers, or individuals posing as officials. Always verify the legitimacy of businesses and individuals before making any transactions. Use reputable tour companies and book activities through official channels.

  4. Street Robberies: While uncommon, street robberies can happen, especially in more secluded areas or at night. Avoid walking alone in poorly lit or deserted areas, especially after dark. Stick to well-populated and well-lit areas, and consider using transportation services like taxis or rideshare apps if you're out late.

  5. Drug-Related Crimes: Maui, like many places, has its share of drug-related crimes. Avoid engaging with individuals offering drugs or participating in illicit activities. Stay away from areas known for drug trafficking or gang-related activities.

  6. Personal Safety Precautions: Always be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation or area, leave immediately. Travel in groups whenever possible, especially during nighttime outings. Keep emergency contact numbers handy, including local law enforcement and your embassy or consulate.

  7. Environmental Hazards: In addition to street crime, be mindful of natural hazards such as strong ocean currents, hazardous hiking trails, or unpredictable weather conditions. Heed warning signs and advisories, and prioritize safety during outdoor activities.

By staying informed, practicing situational awareness, and taking necessary precautions, you can minimize the risk of encountering street crime while enjoying your time in Maui. Additionally, consider researching specific safety tips and advice tailored to your accommodations and planned activities.

Trailhead Theft
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Trails & Hiking Dangers


Flora:  Overall, the indigenous and island-specific plant life on Maui is remarkably harmless. Instances of poison ivy are extremely rare, if not non-existent. However, it is important to be cautious of the Kiawe Trees, as they possess formidable thorns capable of piercing even the toughest rubber soles. Underestimating their potential danger, particularly when they are concealed beneath the sand, would be unwise.

Fauna: The largest wild animals you may come across on the island are the feral pigs that freely roam its more natural areas. These pigs pose a significant threat to the endemic rainforest, as evidenced by the evident damage inflicted upon the tree ferns. While human encounters with these pigs are rare, it is important to approach them with caution as they can reach considerable sizes, weighing up to 200 pounds. Respect for these creatures is warranted.

Additionally, there are a few species of intimidating-looking spiders, such as the cane spider, present on the island. However, it is worth noting that none of these spiders are poisonous, although some can deliver a painful bite due to their venomous nature. Rest assured, there are no snakes inhabiting the island, or at least there shouldn't be. The most formidable creature you may encounter is the notorious Hawaiian centipede. These centipedes can vary in color, ranging from black to bluish or red, and can grow up to six inches in length. Their bite is known to be excruciatingly painful, although not life-threatening. Unfortunately, there is no known antidote for their venom, and according to local legend, the best course of action is to remain intoxicated for a few days. These centipedes thrive in warm and moist environments.

Furthermore, it is important to be aware that mosquitoes tend to congregate in specific locations on the island. Therefore, it is advisable to take note of their potential presence when embarking on various hikes mentioned on this site.

Hypothermia: Although hypothermia is less likely to be a concern along the coasts, it remains a constant threat in the higher regions of Maui. Hypothermia occurs when the body's internal temperature drops to a critical point (approximately 95 degrees), triggering the brain to initiate the shutdown of non-essential systems. Mild hypothermia is characterized by confusion and intense shivering caused by chills, while severe hypothermia can lead to organ failure and other life-threatening complications. To prevent hypothermia, it is crucial to equip oneself with appropriate clothing and gear. It is advisable to always carry rain gear in the rainy and cooler parts of Maui. It is important to note that cotton clothing exacerbates heat loss, whereas materials such as polyester and wool retain warmth even when wet.

By taking these precautions, you can safeguard yourself against the dangers of hypothermia and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in the higher areas of Maui

Heat Injuries:  Hyperthermia occurs when the body temperature rises excessively. Heat injuries pose a significant concern when hiking in coastal regions. Mild symptoms may include reddened skin, confusion, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and clammy skin. These injuries typically arise due to overexertion in the outdoor hiking context. Preventing heat injuries is relatively straightforward: maintain a moderate hiking pace, take scheduled breaks in shaded areas, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, consider wearing light-colored long pants and polyester shirts to cover exposed skin, wear a sun-shading hat, apply sunscreen, and, above all, be aware of your physical limits.

Dehydration: The scorching tropical sun in Hawai'i is relentless. Despite the humidity in the air, it is crucial to stay hydrated and carry water as if you were traversing a desert. Dehydration can sneak up on you faster than you might imagine, so it is essential to consume water even before you feel thirsty. It is worth noting that if you choose to indulge in nighttime festivities, alcohol can further intensify the risk of dehydration.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), also known as Altitude Sickness, is a condition that specifically pertains to those planning a visit to Haleakalā National Park. This significant medical ailment arises due to the reduced oxygen levels found at higher altitudes. If your travel plans do not include a visit to Haleakalā National Park, there is no need for concern regarding this particular condition. However, if you are indeed planning to explore the park, it is important to be aware of this potential hazard.

Water (Freshwater Rivers and Streams): When traversing the beautiful landscapes of Maui, it is crucial to exercise caution when encountering water crossings. The dynamic nature of this land demands careful evaluation. Tragically, swift rivers and streams claim lives every year in Hawai’i. It is imperative to always remain mindful of the potential dangers posed by flash floods. It is important to note that rainfall in your immediate vicinity is inconsequential; what truly matters is whether it is raining upstream. Certain hikes featured on this site may necessitate crossing flowing freshwater. In moments of uncertainty, it is advisable to employ a rope for added safety or, alternatively, to retrace your steps and return on a different day.

Drinking water from Streams: Treat all sources of freshwater on Maui before taking a sip. Unfortunately, there are no known safe freshwater sources here. You've got to watch out for those sneaky Giardia and Cryptosporidium parasites, along with a few other less common ones. Leptospirosis spirochetes can also find their way into your body through any soft tissue, like cuts, sores, or even your nose, ears, and mouth. If you've got any open cuts or sores, it's best to skip the freshwater swimming. And if you do decide to take a dip, try to keep your head above water in areas where Leptospirosis is known to hang out. Trust me, you don't want to mess with this disease. It's a silent ninja that won't show symptoms until two weeks later, and it can even be fatal. So, if you start feeling flu-like symptoms a few weeks after hiking or swimming in freshwater, don't wait around. Get yourself to a doctor pronto and let them know you might have encountered those pesky Maui freshwater parasites.

Water Hazard (Ocean): If the rivers and streams weren't dangerous enough, the ocean around Hawai'i is extremely treacherous and claims many lives every year. The Ocean's beauty often hides strong rip currents and submerged, perilous lava. Never turn your back on the ocean, my friend. If you find yourself caught in a rip current, stay calm, let it drag you out, and then swim parallel to the beach to escape the current. Don't assume that every beach is swim-friendly, no matter what you've heard or read. Take the time to carefully research and evaluate your options.  Talk to the locals, they know the ins and outs. Beach conditions can change dramatically in just a few hours.

Now, let's talk about sharks. They're always lurking around, but don't let the hype get to you. Avoid swimming in murky water, especially at dawn and dusk, and you'll minimize your chances of an unwanted encounter.

Watch out for those sneaky sea urchins too. Trust me, you don't want to step on one of those bad boys. Water shoes are a lifesaver, not only for avoiding sea urchins but also for protecting your feet from the sharp lava. 

One of the biggest concerns, when you're out in the ocean, is Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish. They may not kill you, but they'll definitely ruin your day. If you happen to get stung, the first thing you need to do is remove any leftover tentacles from your skin. You can use a stick or a gloved hand and rinse the area with freshwater or seawater. But here's the deal, don't go putting anything else on the wound. None of those crazy old wife's tales actually work – not vinegar, not urine (seriously, who even thought of that?), and definitely not those fancy products they sell in stores. Trust me, they're either not proven to work or can even make things worse (especially urine – please, for the love of all that's good, don't pee on your hiking partner, literally or figuratively). Now, here's a tip: apply either hot or cold to the sting, depending on what feels better for the poor victim. And if things start getting really serious like cardiac issues or severe confusion, don't hesitate to call emergency medical services.

Tsunami: Although not a major concern, it is worth mentioning that when you find yourself in any coastal region of Maui, you are in the danger zone of tsunamis. It is important to note that almost every state and county road has a sign around the 500-foot level, indicating a safe area from these deadly waves. In the event that you hear sirens, it is crucial to promptly move toward higher ground beyond these signs.

Trailhead Theft: So, here's the deal: theft at trailheads can be a major issue, and does happen relatively often, especially at popular spots like 13 Crossings. Some locals, mostly teenagers, like to hang around the parking lots and snatch some of your belongings. It's usually petty theft, nothing too serious. But the damage to your car can be expensive, especially glass damage.  Now, these guys are pretty smart. They can easily spot rental cars and tourists, which makes them easy targets. It's all about taking advantage of the situation. They wait for those unsuspecting tourists to load up their backpacks and head off on their adventure. And once they're gone, They break into their cars and grab whatever they can.

Here are tips to keep you safe. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to make sure you don't leave anything valuable in your car. You might wanna leave those car doors unlocked too. I know it sounds crazy, but it actually works. Oh, and one more thing, don't leave anything in the trunk either.  So, there you have it. Just a heads up about this issue. Stay vigilant, and enjoy your trail adventures without any worries.

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