Hawaii Dangers

Things That Can Kill You in Hawaii

Hawaii is a really terrifying place to live or visit. Between the constant views of the Pacific, fragrant floral smells and year-round lack of horrible weather, life in paradise might just kill you.

Things That Can Kill You in Hawaii

Please keep in mind that some of these things can really kill you, all kidding aside.

#1. Sunscreen Tornadoes

Sunscreen Tornadoes

You've found your perfect spot on the beach and are ready to enjoy a day of fun in the sun. So far so good.

Suddenly, six families appear at the same time and simultaneously attempt to avoid another way to die (see: sun poisoning). Armed with six cans of spray-on sunscreen and fourteen confused children, shouts of "Stay still, <insert name of child>!" ring out and before you know it, you are engulfed in a tornado of SPF and regret.

If there's one thing you've learned, it's that sunscreen tastes nothing like chicken.

Maui Attorney

#2. Attempting Tarzan or James Bond Stunts (Or Both)

Attempting Tarzan or James Bond Stunts

See those seemingly sturdy vines hanging over that gorgeous waterfall in the rainforest? Do not pull a Tarzan and attempt to swing on them. It will most assuredly not go as planned, especially if you accidentally let go over said waterfall or the vine decides to snap. Also, it may seem cool to drive like Sean Connery (or Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig) in your rented convertible, but there's nothing 007 about accidentally driving off the side of a cliff.

#3. Whale Watching Whilst Driving

Whale Watching Whilst Driving

"Hey, look! Over there! It's a breaching baby whale! How cute! There it goes! Eek! Hand me my phone! I've got to take a photo! It's so adoraCRASH."

If you enjoy Maui whale watching (and who doesn't), make sure you pull over to enjoy the scenery. Your rental car company does not cover accidents for Whale Watching Whilst Driving and whales are not at fault for gloriously distracting you from being an aware human being.

#4. Centipedes


Once upon a long time ago, Hawaii had no mosquitoes, no house flies and no centipedes. However, like most people who come to Hawaii, they fell in love with the ultimate life in tropical paradise and decided to make Hawaii a permanent home.

While they do participate in awesome activities like killing cockroaches, they more frequently participate in not so awesome, sting-and-terrify activities like hiding in shoes, carpet and even pant legs. These beasts of buggy horror can reach up to a foot in length, and while they're not actually deadly to humans, have caused many painful bites and panic attacks with their super-centispeed.

#5. VOG


Volcanic Smog, or VOG, is air pollution caused by volcanic eruptions, most notably Kīlauea Volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, which has been erupting off and on since 1983.

If you thought you came to Hawaii to escape the thick layer of ozone pollution in LA, you might be disappointed to find that on extremely voggy days, it looks much the same here.

Attempt to grab a fresh breath of clean air before the vog rolls in, make sure you don't need to see exactly where you're driving and politely request that your asthma and/or entire respiratory system refrain from destroying your life.

#6. Axis Deer

Axis Deer

Axis deer were introduced on Molokai in 1867 as a gift from the government of Hong Kong to King Kamehameha V. Since the forests did not develop evolutionary defenses against large predators, axis deer have been able to destroy huge areas of land on the Hawaiian Islands. In 1959, as a way for the state of Hawaii to promote game hunting, axis deer were brought to Maui, a giant mistake that resulted in millions of dollars worth of damage to local farms and forests.

Bambi, as it turns out, is a total jerk. While hunting is allowed, most deer live on private land, making population control somewhat difficult. That being said, if they don't kill you by darting out in front of your car at nighttime, these are one of the few things on the list that you can actually kill back. Enjoy.

#7. Playing Chicken with a Blow Hole

Playing Chicken With A Blow Hole

You know who you are. Ignoring the warnings to stay only on dry land when visiting the nearest blowhole, you decide to raise the stakes because you just have to see inside there. One step closer won't hurt. Alright, one more. There aren't any waves right now. Maybe just a little bit closer. One more step. Splash! A wave with the fury of a small tornado takes up residence in the blow hole, only it doesn't want to just take the water back down with it. It wants you, too.

But seriously. Don't play chicken with a blow hole. A number of visitors die each decade from doing this.

#8. Belligerent Friends

belligerent friends

You know that friend that hasn't been on a real vacation in 20 years and has finally decided to treat themselves to a trip to Hawaii? They're the ones stealing drink tickets from strangers on your sunset cocktail cruise, buying multiple rounds of tropical-colored shots that nobody really wants to drink and filling up water bottles of sangria for their afternoon snorkel tour. 20 years without a vacation is a long time, and they're dead set on making up for it. Don't get on their level. It might just kill you.

#9. Posing for Beach Portraits

Posing for Beach Portraits

You've decided to celebrate the fact that you're in tropical Hawaiian paradise by posing for a standard beach portrait, backed by turquoise waves, golden sand and sun. After all, it's a beautiful day at Big Beach Maui or Sandies Oahu! You strike a pose in your most flattering swimsuit stance, flash a smile and friendly shaka and wait for your friend to snap the perfect photo when BAM! A wave hits you directly in the head, back and legs, knocking you down with a quickness and placing your face not-so-gingerly into a pile of beautiful golden sand, twirling you in a dance of salt and surprise all while rearranging your bathing suit into ways you hadn't even considered. You manage to stand up, compose yourself and ditch the beach portrait idea when you hear the lifeguard shout, "Be Careful of Dangerous Shore Break. When In Doubt, Don't Go Out." Noted.

#10. The No Helmet Law

The No Helmet Law

In the state of Hawaii, motorcyclists and moped-ists over the age of 18 are not required to wear a helmet. This may seem like an unsafe practice, but riders are required to wear safety goggles/glasses in cases where there is no protective windshield. Nothing says ultimate safety like wearing some super-safe safety goggles, am I right? Sigh.

If you enjoy the head on your shoulders, please wear a helmet if you plan on renting a scooter or motorcycle in Hawaii. And even though you're allowed to ride in the back of a pick-up truck with no safety strap, make sure to hold on tight in order to keep your head right where it belongs - on your person.

#11. Fire Dancing

Hawaii Fire Dancing

It's cool to spin fire. We get it. What's not cool is thinking you can do it after 7 YouTube videos and a luau. Take off those mai tai goggles and leave fire spinning up to the people who know how to spin fire safely. Nobody wants to watch you catch yourself on fire, brah. Trust me.

#12. Rainbow Neck

Rainbow Neck

You know all those beautiful rainbows in Hawaii? They don't come without their fair share of consequences. Too much upward staring at blissful lines of arced color, as it turns out, can cause a permanent strain on your neck, also known as Rainbow Neck. The next time the rain even thinks about bowing out, ask yourself whether it's really worth it. Rainbow Neck shows no mercy.

#13. Cliff Diving

Hawaii Cliff Diving

You love cliffs and you love diving, so why not combine the two, right? Well, because much like drinking and dancing, two awesome things don't always mix well. Maui's Black Rock in Ka'anapali is a popular spot for cliff diving, but beware that changing tides, empty streams and rushing currents can move debris underwater easily. So while it may look like you're diving into the most awesome salt water pool in the world, that rock or scuba diver or branch may decide to lodge itself directly under you with no warning.

#14. Traveling via Wheel Well of an Airplane

Traveling in the wheel well of an airplane

Sure, 15 year-olds may make it look easy, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. We suggest the traditional way of flight… you know, inside the plane. (this is from a true story some years back. Look it up!)

#15. Flash Floods

Flash Floods

Weather conditions can change drastically on Maui within a matter of minutes. While it may be dry, hot and windy in Kihei, it could easily be pouring and freezing on the top of Haleakala. When visiting freshwater streams, waterfalls, natural pools and rivers, make sure to heed warnings of flash floods. They can start suddenly with no warning depending on the conditions upstream, so ignoring the forecasts and/or park officials is not in your best interest. Trust me, that's one water slide you'll be glad you skipped.

#16. The Grocery Store

The Grocery Store

Mmm, cereal! Mmm, bacon! Mmm, WHAT?! Since when did a dang bag of tortilla chips cost $6?! Since Hawaii, that's when. We are the most isolated population center on Earth, which means that dang bag of tortilla chips had to swim a long way to get directly to your salsa. And to make it worse, you may do the math and realize that at least half of the cost of shipping went to air in the bag. Try your best not to have a heart attack in the grocery store. There's a reason they sell value packs of ramen at Costco.

#17. Liquid Hot Magma

Liquid Hot Magma

If you plan on visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii's Big Island, remember to take the proper precautions when viewing lava, like wearing closed-toe shoes, following the directions of Park Rangers, not walking on the shelf of rock closest to the ocean and packing plenty of water and a good flashlight. Nothing ruins a vacation more than hot lava to the foot or face.

#18. Old Age

Old Age

Along with being one of the happiest states in the country, we also suffer from the longest life expectancy. If you're waiting for the sweet release from warm ocean breezes and Rainbow Neck (see number 12), you're out of luck. It'll be a while.

#19. Shark Attacks

Hawaii Shark Attacks

Hawaii gets a bad rap for shark attacks, but that doesn't mean you should be scared to get in the ocean (see: coconuts). Avoid swimming when the water is murky or around any kind of water runoff, as this attracts little fish, which attracts big fish. Always swim with a buddy, avoid swimming near fishing boats or spear-fishers and get out of the water if you feel uneasy. Hawaii is a great place for snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and plenty of other ocean activities, so take the necessary steps to be cautious and enjoy your time in the ocean. And keep in mind that many of the so-called shark attacks in Hawaii are not what you think. In the past, one man blamed a shark for a turtle bite (he was likely antagonizing it), and some victims are found dead with shark bites, but died from an unrelated water accident (the bites came later).

#20. Coconuts

falling coconuts

While not as flashy as death by lava, coconuts are truly nature's secret weapon. An estimated 150 people die from falling coconuts each year, so we strongly suggest moving out from underneath that coconut-filled palm tree while lounging or camping out in paradise. In fact, you're 30 times more likely to die from a coconut than a shark.

#21. Swimming Under a Waterfall

Swimming Under a Waterfall

We all want that epic photo below a waterfall kissing our loved one. It would get SO many Instagram likes, we know. While swimming next to a waterfall can be one of the best experiences ever, swimming or standing directly under one is the opposite of smart. You know how they say dropping a penny from the top of the Empire State Building would cause a dent the size of a bowling ball? Well, think of a pebble falling from the top of a very tall waterfall. Same principle. Skip the social media love and save your head instead.

#22. Mystery Meat Consumption

Spam Consumption

We who live in Hawaii have built up a tolerance, both mentally and physically, to the culinary wonder that is Spam. In addition to the fact that a single serving contains over 50% of your recommended daily sodium intake, Spam is also high in cholesterol and fat and is said to have no nutrients or vitamins whatsoever. So if you're planning on being adventurous and eating your weight in local delights like Fried Spam Musubi, Spam Fried Rice, Spam & Eggs or the always charming Spamwich, you might want to consult your heart to make sure it won't attack you in the process. This being said, Spam will not kill you. It's your poor eating habits and already weakened body that will throw you over the edge.

#23. Levitating Humpback Whales

Levitating Humpback Whales

Each year, around 10,000 humpback whales swim from Alaska to Hawaii to calve, birth and nurse their young in the warm, shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian islands. Humpback Whales also have a funny habit of breaching out of the water, which is totally awesome to watch unless you happen to be swimming, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding or snorkeling directly beneath them. The chances of this happening are so ridiculously slim that we're not even sure it's ever happened. The good people at Hawaiian Paddle Sports have some pretty amazing stories.

#24. Kihei Serial Killer

Kihei Killer

We heard last week from a reliable source that 5 mutilated women were found murdered and dumped in dumpsters in Kihei, Maui. The story is gruesome and disconcerting to say the least. The only problem is that we heard the same story a year ago, and the year before, and even 20 years ago. This urban legend has been passed along for so many years, and it still freaks people out. The only real killer in Kihei that we know of is the traffic on South Kihei Road during sunset, construction or whale season.

#25. Starvation


Many a person has quit their job, moved to Hawaii and sworn off working ever again. Frolicking under waterfalls, hiking through scenic mountains, playing in the waves and sunset walks on the beach do not mix well with Excel spreadsheets, it turns out. The thing about quitting your job, though, is that you no longer have money to do important things, like eat. And since Hawaii is one of the more expensive places to eat in the country (see: grocery store), this is generally not a wise plan.

#26. Dehydration


Wanting to explore the most remote and scenic areas of your favorite Hawaiian island, you wake up early and head out for a day of fun in the sun. Who doesn't want to hike in the crater of the world's largest dormant volcano, on a former lava field with sprawling views of the ocean or along a path through ancient Hawaiian sites to reach one of the only green sand beaches in the world?! The only thing better than the views and an awesome experience, however, is remembering to bring that good ole H20 on the journey.

#27. Overestimating Your Athleticism

Overestimating Your Athleticism

If that lady in her 50's can swim solo between those two Hawaiian islands and that 20 year old local guy can surf those 55 foot waves and that middle age guy can kayak 50 miles to that other island, why can't you! You were on the JV swim team and recently swam back and forth in your pool 3 times without coming up for air. You've got this. The thing, however, is that you do not have this. Not even a little bit. Those neighbor islands may look like a swimmable/kayak-able distance and those waves may look doable from a half mile away, but unless you've been training on a professional level for your entire life for any of the above, this isn't the place to give it a try.

#28. Frostbite


Most people don't consider packing warm clothing to visit the top of some of Hawaii's most stunning volcanoes, including Maui's Haleakala and the Big Island's Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. In fact, it's not uncommon to see snow at the top of these volcanoes during the coldest parts of the year, and many people go skiing and snowboarding on Mauna Kea. So if you're thinking about camping at the top of a volcano on your trip to Hawaii, pack more than just a bikini and slippahs unless you plan on returning home with two less toes.

#29. Pupu Consumption

Pupu Consumption

Don't turn happy hour into sad hour. Make sure you're ordering the right kind of pupu. Yes, we have some exotic food, but pupu is just our word for appetizers. We hate to see visitors trying to fit in by making their own pupu at home, then smelling like the bowels of Shawshank. Ok, so now that you're familiar with the word, still be wary of what and how much you eat of new things. Fresh Ahi Poke is one of the more beautiful and delicious things to consume, but after 10 pounds of it, you'll want to die.

#30. Pissing Off Pele

Pissing Off Pele

Pele is the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire and Volcanoes, and she has a temper. Passionate and volatile, Pele is said to dwell in the crater of the Big Island's Kilauea Volcano, spewing fiery lava almost continuously for the past 3 decades. For anyone who chooses to take home volcanic rock or sand from Hawaii, Pele is said to be so angered that she curses the thief with terrible revenge. Hundreds of visitors mail rocks and sand back to Hawaii each year in hope of ending their bad luck streak. If the Brady Bunch didn't teach you this lesson, let us: don't piss off Pele.

#31. The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

Chances are if you don't see anyone else around, you're in the wrong place. Don't mistake someone's private property for a secret path to a beach, blowhole or hiking trail you've read about in your guidebook. Sometimes the road less traveled is a road well traveled to getting your butt kicked or worse. The last thing you want is to find yourself in the middle of a fragrant field of pakalolo thinking you've hit the jackpot, while being slowly surrounded by local folk with weapons.

Siri doesn't live here, so don't trust her.

#32. Sun Poisoning

Sun Poisoning

Skin is a funny thing. Only it's not so funny when it's been indoors for the last six months in blizzard-like conditions and then you suddenly reintroduce it to the rays of the shining sun. If you think it's a good idea to oil up and fall asleep in the direct sunlight on a lightly colored beach with no form of sun protection for hours, you are very mistaken indeed. When the physical sight of you makes others point and wince in sympathetic physical pain, you might as well diagnose yourself with sun poisoning and do your best to find a swimming pool filled with aloe.

#33. Spontaneous Beauty Combustion (SBC)

Spontaneous Beauty Combustion

You're relaxing on a sublimely beautiful beach, adult beverage in hand, watching the waves roll in, the clouds surrounding the scenic mountains in the distance, humpback whales breaching under a rainbow, a passing sea turtle giving a friendly aloha, a breeze that smells of plumeria, the sound of a ukelele and laughter in the background, enjoying the perfect moment in Hawaii when you feel so much joy and see so much beauty at once that you burst into flames. It's called Spontaneous Beauty Combustion, and it can happen. It's science.

#34. Your Family

Your Family

"How's Hawaii, Johnny? Are you having fun? Is it beautiful there? Are you being safe?"

"Yeah, Mom. I really love it out here. I… uh, actually… I met some people and I think I'm just going to stay here for a while. See what happens, you know."

"WHAT?!? Johnny, have you really thought this through? What are you going to do for a job? You can't afford to live out there! It's so far from home! What about your great Aunt's birthday party next week? Hello??? You get yourself back here NOW."


"Johnny?!? JOHNNY?!? That's it, I'm coming over there."

It usually goes something like that.

#35. Leaving

Leaving Hawaii

The worst part of most people's vacation is the part where they have to go home. Imagine the scene from Titanic, only Rose is Hawaii and you're Jack. Hawaii tried to hold on, but, you know, it's too warm and nice and it couldn't hold on forever. It has to keep on living and being pretty without you. You'll get over it.

Yes, we realize some of the things we've listed can't really kill you, but it makes for a lighter article. Many of the dangers listed kill or seriously injure people every year. Use your common sense and be careful. Just because it looks like a postcard doesn't mean it doesn't have sharp edges.