Hawaii Travel Safety Tips > Hawaii Land Safety

The people of Hawaii have a deep respect for their islands. The term aloha aina means a love for the land, and this notion is central to Hawaiian culture. They believe the land grants them life and they deeply care for it. Visitors should take in aloha aina as a core value while traversing Oahu’s natural beauty. In order to experience it safely and responsibly, there are a few things to keep top of mind.

Follow Hiking Protocols

  • KNOW BEFORE YOU GO. Before hiking in Hawaii, always research the trail route and make sure it’s publicly accessible and well-maintained. Get maps and directions from Na Ala Hele, the State of Hawaii Trail & Access Program. Another great resource is alltrails.com. Beginner hikers are encouraged to book hiking tours led by experienced local guides.
  • WEAR PROPER CLOTHING. Always check the weather forecast before hiking and prepare for the conditions with appropriate attire. That includes practicing sun safety by using sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts, and pants. Ensure you have proper footwear and rain protection.
  • PREPARATION IS KEY. Responsible hikers always carry a backpack with necessary supplies. A basic First Aid Kit, brightly colored clothing, insect repellent, and a whistle will come in handy and in the case of an emergency can provide aid until help arrives.
  • NO WATER, NO HIKE. It’s integral to keep hydrated while engaging in outdoor activities. Hike with at least 500ml to 1 liter of water per person. Don’t drink untreated stream or river water, it may look clean but it could contain harmful bacteria.
  • ALWAYS HIKE WITH A COMPANION. Never hike alone on trails, always take a buddy and look out for each other’s safety. Before you go, give your itinerary to someone you trust who is not hiking with you. Tell them when and where you plan to go and when you expect to return.
  • STAY ON THE DESIGNATED PATH. Strictly hike on signed and managed trails only, these trails are designated and maintained for safe public use. Keep to the signed trail and don’t stray from the path, not only is it dangerous, it helps to protect native plants off train from damage due to foot traffic.
  • BUG-FREE IS BEST. Hawaii’s great outdoors is home to insects. Protect yourself from unwanted bites by applying insect repellent liberally before setting out on your adventure.
  • LOOK FOR, READ & OBEY ALL SIGNAGE. Warning signs are placed on trails to communicate important safety details, however, the absence of a sign does not mean there is no threat. Pay careful attention to signs while hiking, they take precedence over the information given in guidebooks/websites. Familiarize yourself with common warning signs at Na Ala Hele.
  • WATCH FOR SIGNS FROM MOTHER NATURE. While hiking observe natural signs. An increase in the speed of a flowing stream or river, a rapid rise in water level, rumbling noises upstream, or the distant smell of earth are all warning signs of flash flooding. Be prepared to move to higher ground immediately. Never attempt to cross water levels that are above your knees.
  • KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF FOILAGE. Unfamiliar plants should not be touched or eaten, they may be poisonous.
  • DON’T BE A RISK-TAKER. Please don’t put your life in jeopardy, especially for the sake of a selfie! Climbing over rocks or entering streams, rivers or pools can be extremely dangerous. Venturing out on a ledge can lead to a devastating accident, should the ledge collapse or you slip and fall. If it looks dangerous, stop and do not go any further.
  • DO THIS BEFORE HIKING. Read the Hiking Safety in Hawaii brochure prior to hiking, knowing this information could save your life.

Protect Hawaii’s Nature Reserves

Hawaii has evolved over millions of years into a unique ecosystem with abundant native and introduced flora and fauna. Visitors are encouraged to be safe, responsible, and respectful towards Hawaii’s natural environment, ensuring Mother Nature and her wildlife are protected for generations into the future.

  • DECLARE FLORA & FAUNA. One infected piece of fruit or a small amount of bug-ridden dirt on your shoes can cause serious damage to Hawaii’s biodiversity. The state has strict controls on the type of plants and animals that can be brought in. Respect the rules and do not bring any unauthorized plants or animals into Hawaii, and declare anything questionable.
  • TAKE ONLY PICTURES, LEAVE ONLY FOOTPRINTS. Please leave the places you visit in the same condition as you when first encountered them. Do not leave any trash behind and never take any rocks, sand, or natural artifacts from Hawaii. Do not disturb stacked rocks or any cultural altars. 
  • CLEAN YOUR BOOTS. Brush your boots off before/after entering Hawaii’s nature reserves, this helps remove any seeds and eggs of invasive species.
  • NEVER STRAY OFF A TRAIL. Staying on the designated paths helps to protect native plants in the area. It’s also an important safety measure as Hawaii is known to have hidden ridgelines and steep cliffs.

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Image Credit: Ryan Tishken