Before you jump into a Hawaii beach – or any beach, for that matter – be sure to check for any advisory signs posted along the shoreline. You can’t miss them either; they’ll most likely have a bright orange flag flapping at the top.

This post should give you a better idea of what to look for; otherwise, always check with lifeguards. But keep in mind that not all beaches have lifeguards. Others only have lifeguards on watch until around 5 p.m.; therefore, use your best judgement, and if in doubt, don’t go out!

Here are some ocean advisory signs you’ll most likely encounter while at a Hawaii beach:


As previously mentioned, some beaches have lifeguard supervision, while others don’t. Wearing yellow t-shirts and red shorts, lifeguards get the best view of the beach from their tower. Lifeguards can help you with anything from minor cuts and scrapes to more serious wounds. Of course, they’re also available to give advice to beach-goers.


If you couldn’t already tell from shore, the waves must be macking if you see this sign out. It’s a way to make double sure that beachgoers know that. It’s likely that the surf is at advisory levels, which could be as big as 16-foot faces. Only the experienced should venture into these waters. Head to a safer beach or hang out on the shore instead.


This is in tandem with the High Surf sign. A beach could be totally calm one day, good for snorkeling and swimming. But once a swell moves in (sometimes within a matter of hours), the conditions get ugly, and your memories of underwater explorations are just that, a distant memory.


As a swell hits coastal shorelines, more water movement – called currents – is created. They can be dangerous because currents may sweep beach-goers out to sea in seconds. Rip currents are the ones you really have to look out for; they’re like powerful jet streams that shoot you like an arcade air gun game.


For beaches like Sandy’s, Waimea and Big/Little Beach on Maui, shorebreaks can be dangerous. That’s when waves crash onto the sand so hard that they can break limbs, backs and necks. Very scary stuff for even the most experienced out there.

Photo Credit: Noa Myers


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