Hawaiian green sea turtles are endangered, so visitors must give them their space. // © 2018 HTA/Tor Johnson\
Feature image (above): When the surf’s up, stay out of the water. // © 2018 IHVB/Dustin Lefevre
While Hawaii’s gorgeous scenery and ideal temperatures may lull travelers into a mind-numbing state of bliss, they need to keep their wits about them and remember some key rules of safety and etiquette. Here are five things visitors should never do during their vacation in the Aloha State.
Bring Home Lava Rocks or Sand
Lava rocks might seem like the perfect Hawaii souvenir. Locals, however, consider those rocks to be an important part of their culture. It’s common belief that someone who takes lava from the islands will encounter bad luck when they go home. While there’s no scientific proof of a curse, many lava-snatchers have mailed back their rocks to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park after running into tough times, post-vacation.
And don’t even think about saving sand from Hawaii beaches. Sure, it feels good to sift it through your fingers, but state law prohibits people from removing it — except for that little bit that sticks between your toes.
Leave Valuables in the Car
A rental car provides a carefree way to explore the wonders of Hawaii beyond the resort. That said, the islands do have their share of property crime, and rental cars are a particularly easy mark. Savvy thieves have been known to break into parked vehicles at tourist attractions, hiking trailheads and beaches.
When Hawaii visitors park, they should make it a habit to take everything with them, even belongings in the trunk. No matter how safe the surroundings appear, travelers must always heed this advice. A theft can put a big damper on a vacation.
Honk the Horn and Speed
In certain areas of Hawaii at certain times of day, traffic jams are part of island life. Happily, locals are remarkably patient on congested roads. Visiting drivers should take a deep breath and relax behind the wheel. Wave when people let you into their lane, and return the favor when appropriate. Unless it’s an emergency, honking the car horn is considered rude.
Civility on the road includes speed as well. When you give yourself over to island time, there’s no need to hurry. Besides, sticking to the speed limit allows drivers and passengers to enjoy the beautiful views while listening to laid-back Hawaiian tunes on the car radio.
Swim When You Shouldn’t
Locals have great respect for the ocean, and visitors should follow suit. Rip currents, high surf and powerful undertow all have contributed to injuries or deaths when people have disregarded warning signs. Other reasons to stay out of the water include sharp coral, shark sightings and stinging jellyfish. Choose beaches with lifeguards and follow their directions.
When conditions are conducive to swimming and snorkeling, people should always head into the water with a buddy. It’s true what they say about safety in numbers. In addition, swimmers must never turn their back on approaching waves, as the surf can change in a heartbeat.
Touch an Endangered Animal
Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles are magnificent creatures, and they’re also endangered. That’s why the state created laws to protect them. Sometimes, seals and turtles haul themselves up on shore for a well-deserved rest. Visitors who spot them in the midst of a nap on the beach must keep their distance, admire them from afar and use the zoom lens if they want to photograph them. People who get too close are slapped with a stiff fine.
The same rules apply to encountering endangered critters in the water. A human’s touch can impede conservation efforts and perhaps provoke a nasty bite. These are wild animals, after all.