As far as drownings go visitors make the largest portion of fatalities over local residents. This is particularly true when viewed in respect to the types of water activities that are particularly participated in by tourists such as snorkeling and ocean swimming. The numbers for snorkeling alone are dangerously impressive as the ten year period between 2005 to 2014 showed a total of 128 island visitor fatalities while snorkeling versus only 12 for Hawaii residents.
Aside from full drowning many people have spinal cord breaks that leave them paralyzed as a result of going into the surf to ride the waves when the ocean conditions are way too dangerous. Most of the beaches that provide the most serious injuries are ones that have large shore breaks and in the years between 2009 and 2013 Makena Beach on Maui had 22 spinal cord injuries, Hapuna Beach on the Big Island had 18, Sandy Beach on Oahu had 16 and Brenneke Beach on Kauai had 15.
The fact is that the oceans surrounding Hawaii are equal parts beauty and danger. What might look like a beautiful postcard perfect day to the untrained eye may actually be a spot with hidden undertow or where dangerous intermittent waves will occur. The oceans can be a bit like a Venus Fly Trap luring in their pray and then crushing them. It is for this reason that we always recommend that visitors only go out into the water at places where there are lifeguards and even then it is best to walk up to the lifeguard and ask where the best part of the beach is to swim on that particular day would be. Statistics clearly show that the number of fatalities and injuries decrease dramatically proportional to the distance from a lifeguard tower. The shorter the distance, the less incidents there are.