I grew up on the west coast of Florida, enjoying the tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Later I lived in southeast Florida, and also spent 17 years on north Florida's great beaches. While there were occasional strong rip currents, the Atlantic beaches were user-friendly and generally safe.
Being in the middle of the Pacific ocean is much different. We are on tiny islands in the midst of an ocean that covers one-third of the planet. "Force of nature" does not adequately describe the power of the wind and waves and currents moving around the islands. A sandy beach with coconut palms and aqua water is seductive. Just don't be lulled into complacency. A few tips for visiting Hawaii's beaches:
- Swim where there are lifeguards. Ask them about water conditions - you don't want to dive into surf with stinging jellyfish, for example.
- If there are no lifeguards, don't go in the water if no one else is in the water. If locals are not in the water, there is a good reason for it. If in doubt, don't go above ankle deep.
- If you want to surf, boogie board, body surf, etc. observe conditions and ask a local about currents, rocks, and reefs. Folks are in emergency rooms daily with cuts, contusions and broken bones.
- Don't sit on the beach at a low point or even a small gully. A sneaker wave moves way faster than you can run. I've seen families get knocked head over heels with blankets, chairs, and electronics scattered everywhere.
- Exploring tidal pools and shoreline reefs is fun. Just wear something on your feet - rock and coral are sharp! Beware slippery algae on the rocks. And never ever turn your back on the ocean.
2018 Kauai lifeguard statistics: 10 drownings, 136 life saving rescues, 1960 preventative actions, over 600 first aid activities. Don't be a statistic - use common sense and respect the ocean.