One of the most poisonous marine organisms in Hawaiian waters can be found at the surface and on the beach, especially (but not only) along the otherwise protected south shores of Oahu. Surrounded by reefs or wave breaker rock walls, they offer usually perfectly gentle conditions for sunbathing and swimming for families and novices. Unfortunately, those barriers are absolutely useless when it comes to this creature.
Hawaii Marine Life Encounters, Above and Under Water
Hawaiian marine life is abundant and breathtaking; caution should be exercised though as some of it can take the fun out of a beach day.
Box Jellyfish influx happens at Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kaimana, Kahala Beach, and Hanauma Bay following the lunar cycle, around every tenth day after full moon, and they stay around for about three days. They are transparent (looking like a small plastic bag) and thus almost impossible to see; their stinging tentacles cause an excruciating burning sensation. Different treatments like vinegar, hot water, or ice cubes are recommended, whatever works to relieve the pain, which can last for days (and nights).
Pushed to shore by the almost always present onshore trade winds, Portuguese Man-o-War bother boogie boarders and swimmers alike on mostly windward beaches, like pristine Waimanalo, Makapuu and Lanikai. The tentacles of those transparent blue jellyfishes can grow to 10 m long and also cause a stinging and burning pain, though allegedly not as painful as the Box Jellyfish sting. To reduce unpleasant jellyfish encounters and have fun in the water, a simple rash guard will do a great job.
Warning signs posted at Waimanalo Beach
All photos by Sovidias
Tentacles usually break off when washed a shore
There is of course a whole list of sea creatures, which are abundant in the warm surrounding waters of the Pacific and you’d rather not get too close to; but unless you are a scuba diver or spear fisher, it is not likely that you even see a barracuda, eel, shark, cone snail, sea snake or the like. One exception I would like to mention might be Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, THE snorkel destination on Oahu. It is easy to get in the water (once one found parking and watched an obligatory educational video about the do’s and don’ts) and almost no experience is necessary. Almost immediately one finds itself in the middle of tropical fish swarms and other marine life. Some of them have the potential to be a minor threat to distracted snorklers.
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Crevices and caves offer perfect hiding places for all sorts of moray eels. They are usually nocturnal, though I’ve seen them out also quite a bit during the day. Their mouth is constantly open to let the water circulate, which lets them look a little bit grim. But unless one doesn’t get too close and corner them (accidentally by stepping on corals), they prefer smaller prey.
Yellow Margin Moray
Yellow Margin Moray
Sea urchins have a quite painful venom in their poisonous spines and Scorpion fish with their more than perfect camouflage have prickly fins with a venomous mucus; both can easily be overlooked and stepped upon. Reef sharks and barracudas are present in the Bay as well, but there has never been a recorded dangerous encounter in Hanauma Bay. Incidents with Needlefishes are also rare. Their needle like beak and tendency to dart out of the water with a speed of 60 km/h towards bright objects probably pose a greater danger.
Whitetip Reef Shark, one of the bigger kind
Trying to sleep
Applying common sense, respecting, and not harassing sea creatures not only protects the marine life, but also prevents personal injuries.