Warnings about Outbound Travel: Five Major Safety Risks to Beware of in Hawaii, the US

Hawaii is located in the tropical region of North-central Pacific Ocean, consisting of eight major islands and more than 100 islets. It covers an area of 28,337 square kilometers and has a population of about 1.3 million. According to the Hawaii Travel Information, more than 150,000 Chinese tourists visited Hawaii in 2017.

Hawaii’s special geographical location has formed its unique natural and cultural environment. There are some differences between Hawaii and other states of the United States in terms of laws, regulations, government structure and public service level. The Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles reminds Chinese citizens traveling to Hawaii to take note of the following potential risks:


Water-related risks:

Hawaii is surrounded by sea so that swimming, surfing, diving, kayaking, sailing and other water sports are prevalent; however, the waters in Hawaii feature deep and high waves; there are potential risks rendered by waves and undercurrents; and aquatic plants and such marine animals as sharks, jellyfish and coral may be injurious or even fatal to people.

From January to May 2019, four Chinese tourists or students were drowned while swimming or snorkeling in Hawaii. Between 2008 and 2017, there were 682 drowning accidents in the marine activities in Hawaii, and 55% of the victims were tourists. According to statistics, there are three shark attacks in Hawaii every year on average.


Suggestions for Chinese citizens:

They should be cautious about participating in water-related activities by giving consideration to their own health and ability; they should only take part in activities within such water areas as designated by life-saving personnel, and avoid going to sea at sunrise or in the evening; they should go out to sea with partner(s) and shall not engage in any water-related activities when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs; they are not recommended to try any high-risk activities such as snorkeling, deep diving, free diving, surfing and above-water aircraft without completing sufficient training; they should follow the warning signs on the spot, pay attention to all danger warnings, and obey the guidance of tour guides or professionals; and they should learn about the meteorological and hydrological conditions in advance, and shall not venture out to sea or engage in any water-related activities under the adverse weather conditions.


Natural disasters

The main natural disasters in Hawaii include hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods and bush fires.

Tropical storms

The Hawaiian region may be affected by tropical cyclones throughout the year, with the hurricane season lasting from June 1 to November 30; and tropical cyclone activities are particularly intensive.

In 2018, Hawaii was hit by four storms, including Hurricane Lane, which hit Hawaii from August 23 to 25. During the hurricane, heavy storms caused floods and mudslides, and destroyed a large number of houses; flights were forced to be cancelled, resulting in a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. According to statistics, at least 29 people in Hawaii have been killed in hurricanes since 1949.



Tsunamis may occur in Hawaii throughout the year, without a specific tsunami season. It is caused by seabed earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, etc. It is extremely destructive and can easily destroy buildings in water-crossing zones, resulting in floods, drinking water pollution, gas pipeline or oil tank rupture and triggering fires.

Hawaii has suffered at least 85 tsunami attacks according to records, 15 of which had caused great damages. In April 1946, a tsunami triggered by an underwater earthquake near the Aleutian Islands killed 173 people in Hawaii.


Hawaii is very active in geological activities. The lava flow generated by volcanic eruption can easily cause fires; toxic gases and ash can spread hundreds of miles, endangering people’s health and affecting their normal production and life. Volcanic eruptions are often accompanied by secondary disasters such as earthquakes, mountain torrents, debris flows, rockfalls, landslides, acid rains, and even tsunamis.

Kilauea, located on Hawaii Big Island, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. In May 2018, a lava eruption occurred in the eastern rift zone of the volcano, causing nearly 2,000 evacuations and 23 injuries on a tourist ship. In March 2019, a tourist (non-Chinese) fell into a crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and was seriously injured.

Suggestions for Chinese citizens:

They should learn about the disaster evacuation plan of local communities in advance through hotel operators, get familiar with the emergency plan, and grasp the evacuation methods, routes and the locations of official shelters; they should keep emergency kits with water, food, medicines, sanitary supplies, radio receivers, flashlights and other important items at home; they should pay attention to disaster early warning and the progress of disasters and follow the instructions of the civil defense department through the Internet, television and radio broadcasting. Those who reside in coastline, near rivers or floodplains, or places vulnerable to volcanoes should be prepared for evacuation in advance; they are suggested to participate in any sightseeing or exploration of volcanoes with prudence.



Outdoor risks

In addition to water-related activities, such outdoor activities as hiking and trekking, jungle exploration, rapid boating in torrents, parachuting and scenic helicopter flights are available in Hawaii. Its islands and islets are characterized by complex topography, frequent torrential rains and floods, intense sunshine, changeable climate and many mosquitoes. Some activities are at remote locations, with poor facilities, or without mobile communication signals.

According to media reports, three tourists (non-Chinese) were swept away by waves at Halona Blowhole on Oahu from July to September 2015. In February 2016, a sightseeing helicopter crashed near Pearl Harbor, seriously injuring a tourist (non-Chinese). In December 2016, a mountain torrent broke out on Kauai, killing a non-Chinese kayaker.

Suggestions for Chinese citizens:

They are recommended to participate in outdoor activities after considering their respective abilities and with prudence; they are suggested to purchase personal accident insurance; they should learn about local hydrological, meteorological and geological conditions in advance; they should make emergency preparations for sunscreen, dehydration prevention and mosquito prevention; they should participate in necessary training to grasp safety knowledge and first-aid knowledge; they should choose travel agencies or institutions with legitimate qualifications and operational experience; they should follow the guidance of tour guides and professionals, pay attention to all kinds of warning signs, and shall not cross any fences, barriers or warning lines; and it is best for them to travel in a group so as to take care of each other.


Public security risks:

The public security situation in Hawaii is by the large good, but there are still some social security problems involved with youth gangs, homeless people, pornography and drugs. Tourists’ money and credential documents are stolen, car windows are smashed, or tourists’ goods are robbed from time to time.

Suggestions for Chinese citizens:

They should avoid areas with poor security as best as possible; they should take note of preventing theft and robbery when staying in or going out of their lodgings; they should not leave valuables in the car or on the beach unattended; they should prepare copies of documents in advance and store them separately from the originals; they should not carry a large amount of cash, keep calm at the occurrence of robbery, avoid disputes or physical conflicts with robbers, and take it as a priority to ensure the safety of their own lives; they should abide by local laws and regulations, take care in case of contacting the homeless, and learn to deal with law enforcement personnel.


Restrictions on relief

Hawaii belongs to the area of the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles. Chinese citizens should contact the Consulate-General in case of seeking consular protection and assistance. Given that Los Angeles and Hawaii are far apart that there are more than 4,000 kilometers in straight distance between them, or 3 hours in time difference, or more than 5 hours in one-way flight, the Consulate-General would be constrained in the ability of providing consular protection and assistance.

Suggestions for Chinese citizens:

They should deal with accidents, if any, calmly and properly; they should take it as a priority to ensure the safety of their lives, and take the initiative to seek help from local resources.

Copyright by Zhengzhou Municipal Tourism Administration