Watch Out for Wana!

black sea urchin
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Watch Out for Wana!

Lets just say, if you see a reef full of black sea urchins (like the ones pictured above), you probably want to avoid getting near them. Wana (vah-nuh) is every beach-goers’ worst nightmare because of their sharp toxin spines that may puncture your skin. Ouch!

It hurts just thinking about them. I once endured the wrath of these little buggers when I accidentally touched one while surfing. My foot began to tingle in pain, and I just knew! I knew that I had become victim of wana, lol, so I did what anyone would do and peed on my foot. You don’t even want to know how… That was before I pulled out the half-dozen black barbs protruding from my foot.

Actually, I’m not entirely sure if that’s what your supposed to do to remedy the pain. I just know that’s what I was told to do as a kid. Of course, in my young, adolescent mind at the time, I was too proud (and maybe a little embarrassed) to tell anyone.

Probably best to see a lifeguard if you get hit with wana; they’ll pull out the spines with tweezers or suggest you wait for them to come out on their own. The pain may remain for at least a few days, so avoid putting pressure on the wounded area, or you’ll go through the whole painful process again! Vinegar works, too; except, I’m pretty sure you won’t have that on hand when traveling.

Wana is definitely an example of how looks may be deceiving from time to time – even on a Hawaii vacation. They appear to be rather approachable, beautiful in fact. They even feed on algae. But once you come into contact with one, you quickly realize how ugly they can be to your senses.

Although the thought of wana induces instant pain for many, the sea urchins actually played an important role in Hawaii. Hawaiians used to (and still do) eat wana; mostly the purple ones, which are called haukeuke. They supposedly taste pretty good (salty, I’d imagine) but also have health benefits. Women were advised to eat wana for the iron it contained. Also, Hawaiians used hauke“uke as a purple dye.