For the lucky ones, Hawaii is where they call home, but for many of us, it is simply that dream vacation destination we can’t wait to tick off the list. The land of hula dancing is definitely a contender for one of the most chilled vacation spots on earth, and this picture-perfect location has plenty to offer.
With striking beaches, vast volcanic landscapes, and scenic hikes galore, the 50th state is pretty much paradise on earth. But even paradise is capable of having a darker side. From water sports accidents to volcanic eruptions, Hawaii is certainly not without danger.
But the good news is we are here to help. So, if you have booked…or are thinking about booking that trip to Hawaii (lucky you), read on to find out the nine most dangerous places throughout the islands, so you are sure to be in the know before you go.
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Kalae (also known as South Point) is the southernmost point of the United States. Sitting at the tip of the island of Hawai’i, the glistening ocean and towering cliffs certainly make it a popular beauty spot for tourists and locals alike. However, it’s the strong winds and rocky cliff tops that earn it a place on this list.
Although the crystal-clear waters may be enticing you in, the swift current found here is not to be messed with. In fact, the current known as ‘Halaea Current’ is actually named after a Hawaiian chief who was swept out to sea at this very spot. Even with several deaths over the years, this spot still attracts many cliff jumping daredevils, however, with plenty of rocks just beneath the water’s surface, this could prove a deadly choice. It is advisable to heed all warnings in the area so you can enjoy the stunning beauty of this Natural Historic Landmark in the safest way possible.
Fun Fact: Due to the strength and consistency of the wind here, some trees have actually grown almost horizontally.
2. Kalalau Trail
When it comes to hiking, there is certainly no shortage of scenic trails to choose from in the islands of Hawaii, however, some do come with a danger label…like this one. Listed as one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States, the Kalalau Trail possesses rapidly rising streams, falling rocks, and poorly maintained paths.
The 11-mile trail is found on the island of Kauai, in the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. Running from Keʻe Beach to the Kalalau Valley, it is a broad array of waterfalls, ancient Hawaiian ruins, and sweeping views of the Napali Coast.
With so much beauty on offer, it’s no wonder it’s hard to resist, however, this strenuous and treacherous trek has claimed the lives of over 100 people, a stat you might want to recall before adding it to your Hawaii itinerary.
3. Haiku Stairs
Even just looking at the picture is enough to tire you out, so imagine climbing these 3,922 sets of stairs, reaching an elevation of over 2,000 feet above sea level. Located in the town of Kaneohe on the island of Oahu, the Haiku Stairs (commonly referred to as ‘Stairway to Heaven’) span along the Ko’olau mountain range. They were built during World War II as access to a top-secret naval radio station but have now become illegal to climb due to broken steps and slippery surfaces, made even more treacherous after a storm in 2015.
However, even though they are now guarded by security officers, many travelers in the area still attempt to climb them and have also found routes up the back of the mountain. It seems there is no stopping a true thrill-seeker.
Nevertheless, if you want to avoid arrests and hefty fines on your next vacation, perhaps give this one a miss.
4. Queen’s Bath
Although an area for royalty relaxation time in ancient days, this spot can be anything but relaxing in present day. Situated at the end of a 15-to-20-minute hike over lava rock terrain, this tidal sinkhole gained the nickname ‘pool of death’, due to its incredibly unpredictable water conditions that have been known to be deadly.
Home to a variety of sea life, such as sea urchins, angelfish, and sea turtles, Queen’s Bath can be relatively calm in the summer months, but in the winter months the waves are extremely high and equally aggressive, a far cry from its royalty inviting period.
However, if you take notice of the warning signs lining the trail to the sinkhole and refrain from swimming, it is certainly an enticing beauty spot worthy of a picture or two.
5. Sandy Beach
With an abundance of jaw-droppingly beautiful waters, it can be easy to see why drowning was found to be the leading cause of tourist deaths in Hawaii. From water sports to a simple swim, tragedy has occurred for many, and one area which has seen its fair share of fatalities is Sandy Beach.
Although being one of the most stunning beaches, and even Hawaii-born, former president Obama’s favorite place to bodysurf, it didn’t earn the infamous nickname ‘break-neck’ beach for nothing. Shocking injuries here are common, due to its massive shore break and rip tides – a recipe for disaster for those inexperienced surfers and swimmers. In fact, it has the highest rate of broken necks and backs of any beach in Hawaii.
But, find a spot on the warm sand, free from any encroaching waves and you’ll be just fine.
6. The Spitting Caves
Located next to a quiet residential neighborhood in Honolulu, The Spitting Caves is definitely off the beaten path. Although, as it consists of water being plunged into the back of a cave and then spat back out with incredible force, it’s probably a good thing. But if its name alone isn’t enough to warn you of the potential dangers, maybe some statistics will do the trick. It was estimated that over a seven-year period, more than a dozen people lost their lives here, not to mention the many more that nearly did.
So, what makes this spot so dangerous? Well, for one, the cliffs surrounding the caves can reach heights of up to 60 feet in some places, meaning one wrong landing could prove fatal. Strong underwater currents can also suck divers into the cave, as well as the potential for being swept out to sea.
Even the hardiest of thrill-seekers should think twice before attempting any jumps here.
Ranked as America’s most dangerous volcano, Kilauea is continuously erupting, meaning a constant threat to any tourist looking to get close. However, being the main feature of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, there are regular tours for the public to come and marvel at it.
This volcano has been active since 1983, putting it up there as one of the longest erupting volcanoes in the world. In the 2018 eruption, more than 1000 people were evacuated from their homes because of lava streams flowing through nearby districts. However, some of the biggest threats come from the dangerous volcanic gas and flying debris that can be caused by eruptions.
Although being closely monitored, volcanic eruptions can still be very unpredictable so you can never be too careful around this ticking time bomb.
8. Saddle Road
Moving away from the more adventurous ways to face danger to the danger that we face almost daily in our everyday lives – the risk of a road traffic accident.
Saddle Road (also known as Hawaii route 200), which crosses from east to west of the island of Hawai’i, was first carved out of the lava in 1942 as a route to the Pohakuloa Army Base. However, it is now one of the most scenic drives in the state, passing lava fields, Mars-like desert and lush rainforests.
Although not as dangerous as it was in the past, since much of the crumbling roads were given a shiny new makeover, it still has its fair share of dangers, due to some narrow bends, potholes, and sections of dirt track…Oh, and if you break down here, you’re pretty much on your own, as there are no gas stations on route.
So, if you want to avoid an almost horror movie-like scenario, make sure you have a full tank before setting out.
9. Kipu Falls
Located in East Kauai, Kipu Falls earned a reputation for being incredibly dangerous after five people drowned in a five-year period. It was thought that, after jumping from the 20ft rocky cliff, they were pulled to their deaths while trying to swim back. This led people to question whether there was a powerful whirlpool current in the swimming hole and even had some locals convinced there was an angry water lizard spirit living there.
Angry lizard or no angry lizard, the deaths eventually led to the owners of the land closing it off to the public, and what was once described in guidebooks as a “glorious little hidden place” and “a swimming hole extraordinaire”, now carries some serious no trespassing signage.
However, like a few things mentioned above, a couple of signs don’t always do the trick and many still run the risk of these deadly falls.
Are there bad areas in Hawaii?
Like anywhere in the world, Hawaii does have a few bad areas. The places which come out worst for crime are Waipahu and Makaha in the island of Oahu. However, the tourist areas are generally safe, so as long as you just keep your wits about you, you should be fine.
What should I avoid in Hawaii?
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash with you, as theft is the most common crime in many parts. Avoid going into waters that have danger signs if you are an inexperienced swimmer. Avoid traveling during rush hour (usually starting around 3.30pm), as traffic can be awful in parts of Hawaii.
What is the most dangerous beach in Hawaii?
Sandy Beach is often considered Hawaii’s most dangerous beach, however, there are a few contenders for the title. Hanakapiai Beach, in the Napali coast, is also in the running. With a dangerous rip current, you might want to avoid taking a dip in the waters here also.
What is the most dangerous island in Hawaii?
All islands pose some threats in different ways. However, most frequently mentioned on this list is the island of Oahu. Being the island found to have most crime related incidents, as well as one of the most dangerous beaches, it would, therefore, be a front runner of islands to take a little more precaution in.