Okay, this blog usually concentrates on things in Hawaii that we find appealing and want to share with you to enhance your vacation.

What follows, however, is a discussion of the dreaded box jellyfish you may encounter, depending on which island you’re on, which side of the island you’re on, and the time of the lunar month.

The sting of box jellyfish that visit Hawaii’s waters is very painful and can even cause anaphylactic shock in some people. The things regularly swarm to Hawaii’s Leeward shores nine or ten days after the full moon.

Even more of a villain is the Portuguese man of war whose body consists of a gas-filled (mostly nitrogen), bladder-like float, a translucent structure tinted pink, blue, or violet that may be three to 12 inches long and may extend as far as six inches above the water. Under the float are clusters of polyps, from which hang long tentacles … really long tentacles. Their stings hurt a whole lot compared to those of the box jellyfish.

Signs will be posted if either box jellyfish or man of wars are in the neighborhood where you plan to swim. It’s a good idea to stay out of the water when they are posted. Man of wars can be detected well before they reach shore, and the arrival of the box jellyfish is completely predictable, so the postings are always timely.

If you should get stung, painful though it may be, don’t get excited. Here’s what to do:

  • Pick off any visible tentacles with a glove on your hand. It’s unlikely that you’ll have a glove handy, so use a stick, or anything else that’s handy, being
 careful to avoid further injury.
  • Rinse the stung area liberally with either sea water or fresh water to remove any tentacles that may be stuck
 to the skin. This can be from a spray bottle or in a beach shower. Do not apply
 vinegar. That used to be a popular remedy, but studies show that vinegar in these stings sometimes makes the sting
  • Put some ice on it to control the pain.
  • If eyes are affected, irrigate them with lots of room-temperature tap water for at least 15 minutes. If vision blurs, or the eyes continue to tear, hurt, swell, or are
 light-sensitive after irrigating, see a doctor.
  • If you experience persistent itching or skin rash, try a 1% hydrocortisone ointment four
 times a day, and one or two 25 milligram Benadryl tablets every six hours.

This wasn’t meant to alarm you or to make you wary of those creatures every time you enter the water, but they are occasional nuisances you should know about.


  1. I’m wondering about your advice to apply ice to control the pain–is this something that differs for stingrays and jellyfish? I ask because, while I’ve never had a bad jellyfish sting, I did step on a ray once in Mexico. Not fun! After my wife half carried me down a mile of deserted beach back to our rental I was about to apply ice, when the owner of the place stopped me. He said ice might just make the pain worse–instead I should soak my foot in the hottest water I could stand. I did, and the pain relief was tremendous, and immediate! Maybe the worst had already passed by that point, but at any rate the response was simply amazing.
    Kanaloa at Kona

  2. Thanks for sharing this post. Nice pic.You can find jelyfish in Phang Na, Koh Mak. Great Barrier in Australia which is a prime tourist magnet is closed for swimming during the months from November and May due to this menace with some places having special safety nets that are kept open. There are many beaches like north Catalonia beaches, Ala Moana Beaches in Hawaii, Oahu beaches.

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