Hawaii’s Dangerous Destinations Revealed

Beauty can be deceptive and dangerous. Esp. with Mother Ocean. Just a reminder as this article points out.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for visitors to Hawaii, but one island is seeing a spike in the number of tragedies; Recently, three Bay Area tourists died there in separate incidents.

Hawaii is known for its tropical paradise. But the top destination spot is also struggling with a growing number of tourists who have died in its waters. On the island of Kauai, eleven people have drowned just this year.  Of the islands, Kauai has had the highest rate of drowning deaths among tourists, even more than Hawaii and Oahu.

The tragedies are higher, critics say, because a guidebook series growing in popularity is enticing Hawaii-bound travelers off the beaten trail to beautiful – but often deadly – spots. One legislator wants to hold these travel guide authors legally responsible for suggesting visitors explore these once-unknown places. But some argue, including the guidebook author himself, that these travel tips should not be targeted as scapegoats for visitors who chose on their own to discover hidden gems.

“It happened just so quickly,” said Joy Chiu, in her first in-depth interview since the tragedy in January. The Berkeley resident watched in her horror as her boyfriend, Brain Baker, was taken out to sea by a rogue wave. Moments later Baker’s close friend, Adam Griffiths, was also swept into the waters off South Kalihiwai Point. “I was so close to Adam when he got pulled in,” she recalled.

The group, which included Chiu, Baker, Griffiths, Griffiths’ fiancee, and another friend came to the island from the San Francisco Bay Area to explore the islands’ rugged beauty. They hiked into remote unknown lava pool near Secret’s Beach. Chiu said they had no intention of swimming that day. For nearly 30 minutes, they stood together watching the powerful waves roll into the shelves of lava rock on the north shore of Kauai. But without warning, she said the two men were swept out to sea.  “I knew I couldn’t do anything. If they dispatched a helicopter right now it would be too late,” she said tearfully.  Contrary to other reports, Griffiths tried to save his friend, but was also pulled into the sea, Chiu said.

Chiu said Baker had visited the same lava pool before and nothing had happened.

J.P. Ryan  is Hawaiian local who witnessed a drowning this year in the same area where Baker and Griffiths died.

“We all had the illusion of safety, that we were out of harm’s way,” Ryan said.

Phua Chuan Chin, 62, had been visiting from Singapore and was staying with Ryan at his home on the island. Ryan, Chin, and another friend were all taking in the beauty of the crashing waves when Chin and the other man were both swept in by a rogue wave. Ryan tried to save both men but Chin did not survive. The Kauai man said he had visited the area many times before, and never realized the dangers….

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