Enjoy Hawaii's Beaches Safely

Summer’s warming up. As you head to the beach it’s important to remember a few beach safety tips. The beach is the perfect place to relax, but don’t be too laid back when it comes to safety. Despite being beautiful, Hawaii’s beaches can also be dangerous, so bringing your sound judgment along is just as important as the sunscreen and towels.

Remembering these tips the next time you and your family head to your favorite beach will make it easier to kick back and have a good time.


Children or inexperienced swimmers should wear life jackets or floatation devices. It’s best to swim at beaches with lifeguards. Since the ocean is much different than the pool, make sure children or inexperienced swimmers are comfortable swimming in the surf. Consider enrolling your children in swim lessons from the American Red Cross. If you’re an inexperienced swimmer, make sure you stay close to shore and swim with a buddy.

Rip currents

Rip currents occur at beaches with breaking waves. These strong, narrow channels of fast-moving water flow outward from the beach through the surf zone. They pose a risk to swimmers, body boarders, and surfers. Observe the water or ask a lifeguard about rip currents before entering the water. Areas where the waves aren’t breaking could contain rips. Also, rips could be in areas where you see water or debris flowing from the beach.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s webpage on rip currents features training videos, articles, and photos that can teach you how to spot them, what to do if you’re caught in one, and how to help someone who’s stuck in one.

Ocean conditions  

Ocean conditions change throughout the day and every day, so it’s wise to check the surf and wind conditions of a particular beach before you head out. The Hawaii Lifeguard Association’s Hawaii Beach Safety website has real-time conditions for more than 60 beaches throughout the state. You can easily monitor hazardous conditions on the website and check the hazard rating level for the beach you’re planning to head to. If you’re participating in ocean activities, it’s important to know your limits, stay on constant alert, and never turn your back on the ocean.  

Heed posted warnings

If you’re unable to check the Beach Safety website before heading to the beach, pay attention to any posted warning signs and flags when you arrive at the beach. Keep in mind that the flags are only posted at beaches with lifeguard towers during lifeguard working hours. A red flag indicates there’s a high hazard and variety of beach warning signs indicate  jellyfish, sharp coral, strong currents, or high surf.

Protect your skin

The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests using plenty of sunscreen, using sunglasses, wearing a rash guard when surfing, and seeking shade to help protect your skin while enjoying a day at the beach. The time when the sun is most intense is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you plan on being at the beach all day, take shade breaks under an umbrella. Reapply your sunscreen every two hours and immediately after swimming.

Dangerous sea creatures

Check the beach warning signs for potential Portuguese man o’ war, jellyfish, or shark sightings. You can minimize your risk of being stung by jellyfish in Hawaii by checking a box jellyfish calendar. While you can get stung by jellyfish at any time, your likelihood increases during these times. Treatments for jellyfish stings include rinsing the affected area with salt water and applying vinegar and baking soda paste. Portuguese man o’ war sting treatments include running fresh water on the affected area and using a barrier to remove any remaining pieces of tentacle from the skin.