Health & Safety
Photo Credit: Tim DelaVega
hawaii wave


2/27/24- UPDATED - [HAWAIʻI]: Lapakahi State Historical Park is CLOSED due to active wildfire hotspots. Hawaiʻi Fire Department will determine when it is safe to reopen the park. 

Health & Safety

Our wildlands and oceans can be exceedingly dangerous to the careless and the foolhardy. Since natural hazards are part of our natural environment, the outdoors can never be guaranteed safe.

Think safety. Do not take unnecessary risks. Heed warnings – they are for your protection. Check weather and surf reports and always take note of posted ocean condition signs. If in doubt, contact the district office as to the safety of an area.

Water Safety

SwimmingLifeguard services are provided only at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, Hawai‘i and at Keawa‘ula Beach, Ka‘ena Point State Park, O‘ahu. For your own safety, swim only at protected beaches and only during calm conditions; always swim with a friend. Know your own and your partner's swimming abilities. Children should always be watched closely.
Flotation GearPoor swimmers and weak individuals should use inflatables such as air mattresses and tubes only with a great deal of caution.
BodysurfingBodysurfing is one of the most dangerous ocean sports. It requires special knowledge and techniques as well as good physical condition. To avoid injury, seek competent instruction and familiarize yourself with the surf conditions.
SnorkelingAlways snorkel with a friend and stay in close visual contact with your partner. Familiarize yourself with the snorkeling area and the water conditions. Use caution when entering and leaving the water. Watch for boats and floating devices, as well as other snorkelers and swimmers.
Hazardous Tidal ConditionsOnce water rises above the knees, water conditions can become dangerous if waves or currents are present. Waders to offshore islands should know the surf and tidal conditions before embarking on their trip. Return before the tide rises or have an alternate route.
Dangerous Shoreline ConditionsShoreline hazards include sea cliffs with vertical drops, large breaking waves, and wet, slippery surfaces. Always face the ocean and stay a distance away from wave dampened rock surfaces.
Dangerous Marine LifeMany forms of marine animals are dangerous if provoked, mishandled, or eaten. Avoid contact with unfamiliar marine animals. Be cautious of animals with spines, pincers, sharp teeth, and poisonous stings.
Tsunami (Tidal Wave)Tsunamis can occur at beaches and low lying coastal areas. When a tsunami warning is given, follow the instruction issued through the Emergency Broadcast System.

Emergency Calls

In case of an emergency requiring police, ambulance service, firemen or search and rescue units, dial “911” on Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i, and “0” on Moloka‘i. No coins are required for emergency telephone calls from any pay phones.

For poisoning emergencies, call the Hawaii Poison Center in Honolulu. On O‘ahu dial “911” or “941-4411”. On the other islands dial the toll-free number “1-800-362-3585”.

As a safety rule, always know where the nearest phone is located before or upon arrival at the park.  Charge your cell phone fully prior to any park visit.

Outdoor Safety

Sun Exposure & Skin DamageGuard against sunburn and long-term effects of skin cancer by using a PABA sunscreen or wearing a hat and loose-fitting clothing.
Heat ExhaustionDuring oppressively hot and muggy days, avoid unnecessary exposure to heat and drink plenty of water.
Freshwater Swimming & Drinking Water SourcesAvoid entering streams and ponds when you have open cuts or abrasions on your skin. Do not drink the water without first boiling or using purification tablets. Harmful bacteria, such as leptospirosis, may be present and poses a serious health threat.
HikingPlan your hike by knowing the terrain to be covered, the length of the trail, weather conditions, time of day, and hazards along the trail. Allow ample time to return before nightfall by figuring 1.5 miles per hour. Carry proper equipment, including a first aid kit and plenty of water. Wear proper shoes and clothing. Stay on the designated trail and be extra cautious when crossing streams and walking on wet, slippery trails or on loose, crumbly soil or rock. Hike in a group and keep track of those in your party.
Rock ClimbingHawai‘i's mountains are porous, crumbly weathering basalt. They are not suitable for roping or climbing.
Poisonous PlantsNever experiment with unfamiliar plants - a taste of some plants can kill you.
Rock Slides & Rock FallsSteep valley walls, sea cliffs, and waterfalls are subject to rock slides and falls. Use extra caution in these areas.
Dangerous Animal LifeBe aware of insects and arachnids that can inflict painful stings and bites, such as the black widow spider, scorpions, and centipedes.
Flash FloodsGentle streams can quickly become rushing torrents. Watch for signs of flash flooding: increase in the speed of the stream flow, rapid rise in stream level, a distant rumbling upstream and the smell of fresh earth. Be prepared to move immediately to higher ground and never attempt to cross the stream when the water level is above your knees.

Civil Defense Warnings

When you hear the Civil Defense sirens (a steady siren tone for 3 minutes, repeated as necessary), listen to your radio for emergency information and instructions broadcast by Civil Defense. Take necessary action.

If you hear siren or voice messages from a low-flying aircraft, it is a Civil Air Patrol aircraft. Be aware that there is a dangerous situation approaching. If you hear a voice message, heed it. If you only hear the siren, immediately get to high, protected ground.


Our parks are poorly staffed, if at all, and thefts from cars and of personal property left unattended at parks are a major problem. Visitors and rented cars particularly are targets for thieves. Do not take unnecessary valuables with you on your outing, and never leave any valuables unattended in the park or in the car, even in the locked trunk.