Kauai Hazards – Staying Safe On Your Vacation

Although Kauai is one of the most incredible places on Earth, it’s not perfect… just almost perfect. There are a few hazards that you should be aware of while visiting: the sun, the surf, a few bugs, speed traps, red dirt and swimming in fresh water streams.

The Intense Sun

Kauai is a tropical paradise situated at 22° latitude which means it receives more direct sunlight than anyplace on the mainland. People come to this beautiful island with its temperate climate and heavenly trade winds and don’t realize how quickly they will burn. Try to avoid the sunlight between 11 AM and 2 PM. Wear the doctor recommended waterproof sunblock with an SPF of 30, certainly not less than 15.

If you have fair skin and want to do a little sunbathing, don’t try to get that tropical tan all in one day. It just doesn’t work that way. Remember the sun is more intense here. Just lie out 15 or 20 minutes per side on the first day and gradually increase the time each day. A sunburn can completely spoil a wonderful vacation.

Powerful Surf

The surf is another major safety concern. Unfortunately, Hawaii has more drownings than any other state in the United States. One reason being, there is more opportunity: more swimmers and more beaches. But there is also another factor. The waves are bigger and stronger here. Large rogue waves can come ashore without warning, having formed from two or more waves at sea. Rip currents can form with no warning. The underground topography of beaches is constantly changing throughout the year. Never go into the water if the sea looks rough and you can see strong rip currents. The best way to stay safe is to swim where there are lifeguards, especially if you are not a strong swimmer. The advice here is not intended to frighten you away from the beaches, but to remind you to respect the power of the magnificent ocean, so that you won’t become a statistic. Just use common sense and you’ll be fine.


Mosquitoes can be annoying when hiking, but mosquito lotion repellent containing Deet is very effective at stopping them. The lotions stick better than the liquids. A fan blowing on you will also help when sleeping at night. Don’t get the impression the island is over run with mosquitoes. That’s not the case. It’s just best to be prepared.

Speed Traps

Driving in Kauai may be slower than what you are used to, so watch your speed or you may get caught in a speed trap. Also, don’t forget to wear your seat belt. The law is strictly enforced.

See my article about driving on Kauai for some additional tips.

Kauai’s Red Dirt

The dirt on Kauai is far different from what you’re probably used to. It’s red, it’s beautiful and man does it stain. It stains unmercifully and can ruin clothes and shoes before you realize it. Just save your nice things for the occasions when you know you will not be coming in contact with that beautiful red stuff. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting stained. Be casual and enjoy yourself. That’s the way it is here.


Do not swim in fresh water streams if you have open cuts and do not drink the water. A bacteria called Leptospirosis can be found in some of Hawaii’s fresh water. It is transmitted from animal urine and can enter the body through fresh cuts, the eyes, nose, etc. and drinking the water. It can be treated with antibiotics if treated early. If you see a sign that warns you not to swim in a certain area, then it’s best to pay attention. And even if you don’t see a sign, just remember the caution.

Consider this list of hazards as a list of cautions intended to make your trip to Kauai more pleasant and trouble free. It’s still a slice of paradise.

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One Response to “Kauai Hazards – Staying Safe On Your Vacation”

  1. Dakota Said,

    I just wanted to let you know that you have a great website. My husband and I are planning our first trip to Kauai, and the information on your site is very helpful!

    Thank you so much!!