Upon meeting a lady who just moved here from Florida, I asked her how she liked Hawaii so far. The pleasant version of her response might have included words like “wonderful warm weather” and “breathtaking sunsets.” But instead, I got a more depressing version: “We got ROBBED our first day here!”

She went on to tell me how they became victims of theft at Sharks Cove, a popular snorkeling beach on the North Shore. Maybe they got overly excited to explore the underwater world or maybe they just didn’t know better; they left their bags on the beach and dove right in for some snorkeling. It didn’t take long for someone to pe right into their bags and unfortunately, steal their rental car as well. What a nightmare!Make positive memories in Hawaii and play it smart when it comes to protecting your valuables.

I always get so bummed when I hear stuff like this, which not only happens to tourists but to locals as well. That’s why I wanted to remind our visitors of several safety tips that will help them leave with wonderful memories from their trip. Although most of these tips should be common sense, the excitement of being in beautiful Hawaii can sometimes become a bit of a distraction. Here’s a quick look at what visitors should be keeping in mind while on your Hawaii vacay:

Park in a Populated Area – Most times, no matter where you park, that hideously bright-colored rental car you wound up getting will always scream, “HEY! I’M A TOURIST!!” Probably not the best thing to boast since it’s a telling sign for thieves that there’s a likely chance luggage may be sitting in your car’s trunk. To avoid any unfortunate break-ins, park your car in an area where there’s a high volume of foot traffic. If it’s at night, then park close to where you’ll be. Make sure it’s also in a lighted area.

Don’t Leave Valuables in Car or Unattended – This is the most important rule to live by. Sometimes, you may be forced to park in an isolated area, and if that’s the case, please don’t leave anything of value inside. I’ve had a few friends get stuff stolen right out of their car in broad daylight – iPod, laptop, cameras, cell phones…thieves have no remorse when it comes to ruining a vacation (or someone’s life!) It’s always best to bring those valuable items with you and out of the car. You could also leave them behind in the hotel, locked up in your suitcase or in the hotel safe.

In the case of the Florida woman I mentioned earlier, she did the right thing by not leaving her belongings in the car, but unfortunately, she left them unattended on the beach. Big No-No, especially in popular tourist areas. Those on a mission to steal know to target these places first. To avoid getting robbed, the woman should have taken turns snorkeling, with one person on the beach to keep an eye on their stuff. If you’re alone, then it’s best not to bring any valuables unless you know you’ll be watching them the entire time.A day at the beach shouldn’t be ruined with theft. Take turns swimming and don’t leave items unattended.

Lock Valuables in Suitcase or Hotel Safe – As I mentioned in the first tip, leave your valuables at the hotel when you go exploring. That doesn’t mean to leave them sprawled out on the hotel floor or on the beds, but rather, lock them up in your suitcase. Most hotels offer safes for even more theft-protection, so be sure to ask the front desk upon check-in. For those larger items that don’t fit in the safe, then resort to locking them up in a suitcase.

Drive Cautiously – Hawaii’s notorious for its winding roads, oftentimes just a few feet away from a steep drop into the sea. And to add to that, most roads have only two lanes for opposite traffic. Take the road to Hana on Maui, for instance, it’s known for its twists and turns. It doesn’t mean you have to be a super-skilled driver when navigating our roadways, but it does mean you should be a careful one. Adhere to the designated speed limit and always look ahead of the turns, if possible, for any crossing pedestrians or stopped vehicles. At night, it gets especially tricky because not all roads have street lights. Double check that your headlights are on and that you are distraction-free. Avoid changing radio stations, talking on cells, texting (!!!), etc. Use your high beams only if absolutely necessary, as they often become hazardous to other oncoming drivers.

(Top) The road to Hana curves in and out of the mountain side. (Bottom) After sunset, Honolulu’s Round Top Drive gets dark in some areas.

Don’t Hang Out in Isolated Areas – Like anywhere else you may visit, be cautious of your surroundings. Stay in well-populated areas and avoid parking or walking in isolated ones. If you get lost, then go to the nearest store to ask for directions or find a security or police officer. Having a perfect vacation in Hawaii is totally possible, just take the few necessary precautions to increase your chances, and it should be smooth sailing the whole time.

Photo Credit: Julia Choi (Hana, Maui); Noa Myers (Round Top Drive)


  1. Great tips Alyssa! Nothing worse than coming back to your car after a fun day at the beach and finding the locks broken and all your stuff gone. I once had my stereo stolen out of a locked car in an Aiea shopping center.

  2. Thanks for the great tip on this Bruce, I hope all heed this great advice to having fun and not losing valuables. Prevention is the key, and being very aware of your surroundings.

  3. These are all great tips. I remember going everywhere as a kid, and leaving my stuff on the beach, but as a kama’aina kid with just a towel and some slippahs, I guess we weren’t big targets.

    If you’re swimming, a good tip is to only bring a little cash and your hotel (or apartment!) key and stick it in one of those plastic swimming container things you can get at every ABC store on every corner in Waikiki. I left my towel and slippahs on the beach and swam with my money and key around my neck. You can tuck it into a swimsuit strap too, so it stays out of the way.

    As far as the rental car, I made sure that there was absolutely NOTHING in view in the car–except a drive-thru cup and some napkins. I took everything out every time. Also, you never, ever want to let someone see you putting valuables in your trunk or glove compartment. Leave it at home or take it with you when you get out. That’s how my brother got hit when he was home for a visit.

    And one more thing: none of these tips would be amiss in NYC, SF, LA, or Miami. Same thing–common sense.


  4. @AlohaKarina-Mahalo for those wonderful tips! They even have those waterproof key holders for surfboard leashes.

    As beautiful as Hawai’i is, it’s not perfect. People are always on the look out for those who make the smallest mistakes by leaving their GPS out in their cars or even their maps! They are telling signs that they’re not from here and they probably don’t know better…

    And YES YES YES, these tips are not only limited to Hawai’i but to anywhere you may travel. Mahalo!

  5. Mahalo, once again for great infomation, The info on the car doesn't really apply to me because  I don't have a drivers license, therefore, I will not be renting a car, however, I will be a solo traveler and will want to go to the beach for surf lessons and swimming, most probably in the Wakiki area.   What should I bring and what should I leave in my hotel room /safe?   And once there on the beach what should I do?    

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