Something new for Friday, July 22, 2011

I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than going on vacation and never coming home. This past week, a California man died when he fell into a popular Maui blowhole. A few days later, the Associated Press published a story about what we on Kaua‘i have known for years — that Kipu Falls is not a place to toy with.

I probably don’t need to remind you that five people have died at Kipu Falls in the last five years. Accounts of how they perished have left many people speculating about a supernatural force that are claiming these lives.

While I’m a little hesitant to have a coroner print “Death by Evil Spirit” on a death certificate, I do think a little common sense and a lot of research can prevent these unnecessary tragedies.

A vacation to Hawai‘i isn’t the same as a vacation to Disneyland. There are unseen dangers that visitors have no clue about — strong rip currents, rocky shorelines and unkempt hiking trails can all lead to a hazardous situation.

At Brennecke’s last weekend, I witnessed two teenage snorkelers venturing near the lava rocks toward the right side of the beach. Sure enough, a huge wave pounded them into a rock bed. A group of beachgoers rushed to pull them out of the water, and luckily they emerged relatively unscathed — no broken bones, just a few cuts.

Still, anyone who lives on Kaua‘i understand that strong currents can toss a swimmer around like a rag doll.  

I didn’t appreciate the power of Mother Nature until I moved to Kaua‘i.

As a teenager vacationing to Hawai‘i, I did a lot of stupid things. I jumped off Kipu Falls without knowing I was trespassing to get there. I dived off the lava rock at Lumaha‘i Beach without studying the ocean’s current. I snuck down to see Spouting Horn up close and personal.

When a local told me there was a great trail to a waterfall, and all I had to do was “drive past Loop Road, take a right and then take a left,” I didn’t think twice about driving on unmaintained roads that lead to a jungle I know nothing about.

I didn’t think of the danger, I just thought about all the cool photos and videos I could share when I got home.

When I moved to Kaua‘i, I spent my first year renting cars. As I told first-time visitors about places such as Kipu Falls, Queen’s Bath and even Tunnels Beach, my coworkers would scold me sending these tourists off to potentially dangerous places.

I didn’t get it. What harm was I inflicting by repeating knowledge that can be found in any guidebook or with a simple Google search?

It wasn’t until a friend of mine who worked at a helicopter company told me about a phone call she received at work.

A couple decided to venture into the jungle and hike to the Blue Room without knowing exactly where it was located. After hiking for four hours without any luck, they noticed that helicopters were flying overhead.

Using their cell phones, they called the helicopter company to ask if they can patch one of the pilots through to their cell phone so they can guide them to their destination.

No joke.

Obviously, the answer was no. While my friend encouraged the hikers to get out of the jungle, especially since it was going to set soon, they said that they will still going to press on and try and stumble upon their destination.

Those hikers just brought dumb to a whole new level.

Yes, millions of people visit Hawai‘i each year, and all but a handful return home safely. While I don’t think these places should be off-limits, I do think it is visitors’ responsibility to do their due diligence, and not blindly jump off a rock at the recommendation of a car rental agent.

• Andrea Frainier, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.

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