Deadly Hanauma Bay

Snorkelers enjoying a clear, sunny day at Hanauma Bay
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Many people know Hanauma Bay for its tropical underwater marvels – from schools of fish to an expanse of colorful coral. It is among the top spots for snorkeling in the world, but did you know it is also at the top place for drownings on Oahu?

From 2008 to 2013, about nine people have died snorkeling at Hanauma, according to a report by KITV. And surprisingly, most drownings have happened in shallow waters of three feet or less – where small waves, currents and unfamiliar equipment seem to be a recipe for disaster.

For the most part, the bay is rather protected from high surf, and if it is at all a hazard to beach-goers, lifeguards close Hanauma to the public. And again, it is usually those calm ocean days that can be the most deadly. Hundreds frequent the beach throughout the day, making it difficult for lifeguards to keep track of swimmers and snorkelers.

“There is no yelling, no screaming, no sign of distress,” says one lifeguard in the report. He explains how it has become a challenge for lifeguards to spot a drowning victim from hundreds of people already floating face down in the water. Scary stuff that should definitely not be overlooked.

That’s why the City and County of Honolulu will start using social media to teach visitors about island hazards. The online program will teach them how to stay safe in the ocean.