Changing Ocean Conditions

The ocean is always changing, choose where you play wisely!

Hawaiian Lifeguards and locals know to keep a close watch on ocean conditions. Wind, tides, and swells can cause the weather to change quickly – even in a matter of hours. If you want to find the best conditions for snorkeling, surfing, or any other beach activity, follow these important weather safety guidelines:

  • Observe the ocean. Take the time to observe the ocean for at least 20 min. before entering. Waves come in sets - it can look calm for up to 20 minutes between dangerous sets of huge waves. Ask: Are there currents and waves? Is there anyone else out? If I get in trouble is help available?
  • Wind moves the ocean. As the winds strengthen, expect currents and surface chop to increase.
  • Look for calm conditions in protected coves, bays, and areas where the wind is blowing from the land towards the sea.
  • Tidal Awareness. Many snorkeling and swimming spots are protected by coral reefs. Expect more surf to move into these areas during high tide.
  • Waves on Rocks. Many unsuspecting locals and visitors have been swept off rocks when periodic large ‘sets’ of waves wash much higher than the apparent ‘safe zone’.
  • Ask a Lifeguard or a Local! We are probably your single best source for weather information.

View safety video with lifeguard Kalani Viera »

Review beach safety tips »

Comments (27 comments)   View all comments   

beejayo | Feb 14, 2008 7:29PM

We will be there the last week in Feb. What are water temps like near Poipu and also along North Shore? Do we need to rent wetsuits/tops as well as snorkel gear?

Kauai Explorer Staff | Feb 14, 2008 8:47PM

Aloha. This time of year you'll see locals wearing wetsuits but many visitors find the water temp to be plenty warm for bare skin. You can check in with this site for current temperatures: [...] view more

Jane Russell | Mar 17, 2008 12:27PM

Aloha -

We will be visiting Kauai in early May of 2008 and staying on the North Shore very close to Tunnels Beach. What is the surf typically like during this time of year and is it [...] view more

Kauai Explorer Staff | Mar 17, 2008 5:27PM

Hi Jane. Surf can be unpredictable. Surf is generally smaller on the North shore in the summer and May often marks the beginning of this season. Check our ocean report daily and ask a lifeguard if [...] view more

Jan | Apr 21, 2008 5:01PM

Just want you to know that your site has been very informative and helpful for us as we plan our trip... just one week now... this will be our fourth trip and I cannot believe how naive we were the [...] view more

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