Are you planning a snorkeling trip in Hawaii? Well, here’s something you might want to know. Maui, the second largest Hawaiian Isle, may not have the best snorkeling spots or the most beautiful beaches, but it does have the highest number of snorkeling deaths in the state. According to a report by Kitv4, Maui has seen the most snorkeling fatalities over the past 10 years. While popular spots like Hanauma Bay attract hundreds or even thousands of snorkelers, it is also the top spot for snorkeling deaths. But Maui is not alone. Other areas like the South Shore, West Side, North Shore, and windward side of Oahu have also recorded a significant number of snorkeling drownings. The main issue seems to be the lack of lifeguards, as most of these incidents occur outside of lifeguarded beaches. However, there is hope in sight, as Maui county has budgeted for the addition of lifeguards at certain beaches next year. So, if you’re planning a snorkeling adventure in Hawaii, it’s important to stay safe and be aware of the risks involved.

Causes of Snorkeling Deaths in Maui

Maui, the second-largest Hawaiian Isle, has unfortunately gained a notorious reputation when it comes to snorkeling fatalities. Despite having many beautiful beaches, the island has seen the highest number of snorkeling deaths in the state. There are several contributing factors to these tragic accidents.

Maui has highest number of snorkeling deaths in Hawaii

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Lack of experience and swimming skills

Snorkeling may seem like an easy activity, but it can be challenging for those who are new to it or unfamiliar with swimming in the ocean. Without proper experience and swimming skills, individuals who attempt snorkeling put themselves at a higher risk of getting into trouble. It is essential to have a good understanding of swimming techniques and be comfortable in the water before venturing out for a snorkeling excursion.

Equipment malfunctions

Another significant cause of snorkeling deaths in Maui is equipment malfunctions. Issues with the mask or snorkel can result in a loss of air supply or difficulty breathing underwater. These malfunctions can occur unexpectedly and without warning, putting snorkelers in a dangerous situation. It is crucial to regularly check and maintain snorkeling equipment to ensure it is in proper working condition before entering the water.

Cardiovascular issues

Snorkeling requires a certain level of cardiovascular fitness. Individuals with pre-existing heart conditions or poor cardiovascular health may be at a higher risk of experiencing difficulties while snorkeling. Swimming and diving underwater can put additional strain on the heart and lungs, leading to potential cardiac events. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before engaging in strenuous activities like snorkeling, especially if one has a history of heart problems.

Lack of lifeguard presence

The absence of lifeguards in snorkeling areas also contributes to the high number of deaths in Maui. Many of the popular snorkeling spots on the island do not have lifeguards stationed, which means there is no immediate assistance available in case of an emergency. Having trained professionals on-site can significantly reduce response times and provide crucial aid to those in distress. The addition of lifeguards at key snorkeling locations could greatly enhance safety measures and help prevent snorkeling-related fatalities.

Snorkeling Deaths in Hanauma Bay

Among the various snorkeling spots in Maui, Hanauma Bay stands out as a top spot for both snorkeling and snorkeling deaths. One of the primary reasons for its popularity is the attraction of underwater wildlife. Snorkelers flock to Hanauma Bay to witness the mesmerizing underwater world teeming with diverse marine life. However, this allure comes with risks, as the concentration of snorkelers increases the likelihood of accidents occurring.

Over the past ten years, Hanauma Bay has also gained notoriety for being the location with the most snorkeling deaths. The exact number of fatalities in this period is not specified, but it highlights the importance of being cautious and well-prepared when snorkeling in this area. Snorkelers should always prioritize safety and adhere to guidelines and regulations set by local authorities.

Snorkeling Deaths in Other Areas of Hawaii

Snorkeling fatalities are not exclusive to Hanauma Bay, but have occurred in several other areas of Hawaii, including the South Shore, West Side, North Shore, Windward side of Oahu, Anapali Coast, Kihei and Wailea, and Molokini. These incidents add up to a total of 88 deaths over the past ten years across these locations.

The South Shore, West Side, North Shore, and Windward side of Oahu have all experienced snorkeling-related deaths. While these areas offer scenic beauty and abundant marine life, they also present unique challenges and potential dangers for snorkelers. It is essential for individuals planning to snorkel in these regions to understand the specific risks associated with each location and take appropriate precautions.

Similarly, the Anapali Coast, Kihei and Wailea, and Molokini have witnessed snorkeling deaths in recent years. These incidents serve as a reminder that snorkeling can be hazardous, even in seemingly calm and idyllic settings. Snorkelers should always prioritize safety, including wearing appropriate gear, assessing currents and weather conditions, and being aware of their own limitations.

Comparison of Snorkeling Deaths in Hanauma Bay and Other Areas

While Hanauma Bay has the highest number of snorkeling deaths, other areas of Hawaii have also tragically experienced fatalities. The total number of deaths in each location may vary, but they all share the common factor of snorkeling-related accidents.

The similarities between Hanauma Bay and other areas lie in the allure of underwater wildlife that draws snorkelers to these locations. However, the specific conditions and challenges may differ. These variations can include unique underwater landscapes, varying currents, and distinct marine ecosystems. It is crucial for snorkelers to research and understand the specific risks associated with each area before planning their snorkeling excursions.

Challenges of Snorkeling in BlackRock or Puke Kaha

While Hanauma Bay and other areas have been mentioned as hotspots for snorkeling deaths, there are additional locations in Maui that pose their own challenges. BlackRock or Puke Kaha are such places, often touted as easy entry and exit snorkeling spots with pristine clear water. However, they present unique challenges that can be dangerous if not handled properly.

The first challenge is the ease of entry and exit. While this may seem like a positive aspect, it can lead to complacency among snorkelers. The accessibility and simplicity of reaching the snorkeling area may cause individuals to underestimate potential risks and overlook safety precautions. It is important for snorkelers to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings, even in seemingly easy snorkeling spots.

The distance from shore is another challenge at BlackRock or Puke Kaha. Snorkelers must swim approximately 100 yards to reach the hip of the rock, which serves as a popular snorkeling destination. This distance can be significant, especially for inexperienced swimmers or those with limited stamina. Snorkelers should assess their swimming capabilities and ensure they have the necessary skills and endurance to swim such distances without jeopardizing their safety.

It is worth noting that the number of deaths in BlackRock or Puke Kaha is nearly as high as in Hanauma Bay. While these locations provide a picturesque snorkeling experience, they also present potential risks that snorkelers must be aware of and adequately prepared for. Safety should always be the top priority when engaging in water activities.

Importance of Lifeguards

The absence of lifeguards at many snorkeling spots, particularly secluded beaches, significantly impacts snorkeling safety. Most of the drownings that occur during snorkeling happen outside of lifeguarded beaches, emphasizing the critical role lifeguards play in preventing accidents and providing immediate assistance.

The addition of lifeguards at popular snorkeling locations can greatly enhance the safety of snorkelers. Lifeguards are professionally trained to respond to emergencies and can provide timely assistance in case of distress or accidents. Their presence ensures that snorkelers can enjoy their underwater exploration with peace of mind, knowing that help is readily available if needed.

To address this issue, initiatives are being undertaken to add lifeguards in Maui. Maui County has allocated a budget to include lifeguards at specific beaches. This proactive step aims to improve snorkeling safety and reduce the number of drownings in the region. With lifeguards on duty, snorkelers can feel more confident in their water activities and enjoy a safer snorkeling experience.


Snorkeling deaths in Maui, particularly Hanauma Bay, highlight the importance of safety measures and precautions when engaging in water activities. Lack of experience, equipment malfunctions, cardiovascular issues, and the absence of lifeguards all contribute to the high number of fatalities.

It is crucial for snorkelers to prioritize safety and take appropriate measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable snorkeling experience. This includes developing swimming skills, regularly maintaining snorkeling equipment, assessing personal health conditions, and adhering to safety guidelines. The presence of lifeguards further enhances safety and provides reassurance to snorkelers.

By understanding the causes of snorkeling deaths and taking necessary precautions, individuals can minimize the risks involved and make the most of their snorkeling adventures in Maui. Whether exploring Hanauma Bay or venturing to other snorkeling spots, safety should always be at the forefront. Remember to enjoy snorkeling responsibly and make every effort to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in the beautiful waters of Maui.