Hawaii is home to a wide variety of extreme and action sports. This is the reason many visitors choose a Hawaii vacation. And while we hear news stories about a handful of visitors who find themselves in genuine peril during their stay, it’s generally not the professional thrill seekers needing emergency assistance. It’s the amateur thrill seekers. Here are three silly things that defy common sense yet somehow endanger unwitting visitors on a fairly regular basis. Just don’t.
Careless hiking. Hawaii has many dozens of clearly marked and well-maintained hiking trails. But a few times each year, local news media will report on stranded hikers plucked from mountaintops after spending a cold, wet, and hungry night lost while hiking an unfamiliar trail. Most often these hapless hikers are nonresidents: out-of-state or international students, or vacationers. They’ll do everything wrong, like not telling someone of their plans and route, not packing enough water, hiking an unmarked trail, not allowing enough time to return before dark.
Most recently, a woman was seriously injured after a 50-foot fall while scaling a sheer (unmarked) cliff face at the Pali Lookout on Oahu. It could have ended considerably worse. The prevailing sentiment among those who heard or read the story (after “glad she survived”) was “Well, that was stupid of her.” Also, Kauai recently had 121 hikers rescued on the famous Kalalau trail after being stranded by flood waters. Others have died on the same trail.
Biting off more than you can chew while hiking in Hawaii rarely ends well. And careless hikers deemed to have ignored posted warnings or hiked unsanctioned trails face being charged for the cost of the rescue operation.
Not respecting the ocean. Hawaii beaches that experience yearly high surf, Oahu’s North Shore in particular, also experience a high number of ocean rescues. Oahu’s Ocean Safety personnel are among the best and most dedicated and experience in the world. At Sandy Beach, on Oahu’s southeast corner, lifeguards will patrol the shoreline during large swell events with a bullhorn, warning the inexperienced to stay out of the water. Inevitably, however, someone will ignore the warnings and require a rescue.
Just as hikers endanger the emergency personnel called to rescue them, inexperienced, hapless swimmers endanger the lives of the lifeguards that have to swim out and rescue them. The familiar “never turn your back on the ocean” is good advice, but not the only good advice when it comes to Hawaii waters.
Skimping on the sunscreen.True, this one isn’t as life-threatening. But many are visitors’ tales of getting so sunburnt that their vacation was effectively ruined. You won’t be able to enjoy all that Hawaii has to offer if the simple act of putting on a light cotton t-shirt brings excruciating pain. Residents learn at an early age that if you’re having fun in the sun, you’ll need lots of sunscreen to continue having fun in the sun.
This all boils down to simple common sense, of course. But those of us who live here never fail to marvel at the stupid things some visitors (and residents, too) do to put themselves in mortal danger, also imperiling the brave souls who make it their lives’ work to protect people from themselves.