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Planning a visit to Kauai? We regularly add news and information about events, activities, and places to see on The Garden Isle.

About The Author

Sheila Heathcote has lived in Hawaii since 1986. She's a published author on the topic of Kauai and the owner of Hale O Nanakai Bed & Breakfast.

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Ocean Safety -- More Important than Sunscreen

Kauai is truly an island paradise with emerald mountains, shimmering white sand beaches, swaying palms and crystalline, turquoise ocean waters. Kauai is also known for having some of the largest ocean waves on the planet and is home to the top watersport athletes in the world. Local kids learn to surf about the same time they learn to walk, many islanders earn their living or feed their families from the sea, and all others use the beaches for recreation and enjoyment every chance they get. Kauai’s people are a true “ocean culture” and they would like to share some really valuable information with you about local coastal conditions and seasonal wave patterns.

Kauai's shoreline and reef systems are exposed to the raw power of the open ocean, where storm systems in the vast North and South  Pacific Ocean, above and below the Equator, generate some massive swells that pummel the coastlines each year. Combined with the howling tradewinds and the shape of the shore, dangerous and often invisible currents result.

For this reason it is highly recommended that visitors swim at beaches where lifeguards are stationed. These include KEKAHA, SALT POND, POIPU, LYDGATE, KEALIA, HANALEI AND HAENA.

These guys and girls are a wealth of information about local conditions, they have immediate updates when high surf advisories are issued by the National Weather Service, they are VERY highly trained and skilled watermen in their own right, and they posses state of the art rescue equipment– God forbid it should be needed.  

Depending on the season -- there's only two in Hawaii: Winter or Summer --, high surf advisories may be posted for any of kauai four coasts - specifically the North Shore, the East Side, the South Shore and the West Side. 

During the SUMMER months (May through September), cyclones and hurricanes in the Southern Hemisphere -- between Hawaii and New Zealand or Australia -- cause waves to increase along Kauai's South and East Shores.

During WINTER months (October through April/May), gigantic surf generated from huge winter storms in the North Pacific Ocean -- can hammer the North and West Shores, often without warning and in the deceptively sunny conditions that precede a storm front.

A High Surf Advisory is a condition dangerous to swimmers and beachgoers, and is officially issued when breaking wave action poses a threat to life and property within the surf zone.

Never turn your back on a wave.

Never swim alone.

If caught in a rip current, signal for help.


Some of the conditions to be aware of include STRONG CURRENTS, the main cause of drowning; DANGEROUS SHOREBREAK - forceful waves breaking on the beach; HIGH SURF - big waves; SLIPPERY ROCKS; SHARP CORAL - cuts and scrapes can lead to serious infections; SUDDEN DROP OFF - no gradual entry into the water, returning to shore impossible; WAVES ON LEDGE - chance to get knocked of ledge into the ocean by breaking waves.