Special Report

Dying For Vacation

About the Series

Why are so many tourists dying in Hawaii? We examine the causes of visitor deaths and the effort — or lack of it — to address one of the highest rates of visitor drownings in the country.
Death In Paradise Is All Too Frequent For Visitors To Hawaii Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Chapter 1: Death In Paradise Is All Too Frequent For Visitors To Hawaii

Yet state, county and even tourism officials are doing little to try to reduce what's become one of the highest rates of visitor deaths in the nation.
Stand Up Or Die: Snorkeling In Hawaii Is A Leading Cause Of Tourist Deaths Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Chapter 2: Stand Up Or Die: Snorkeling In Hawaii Is A Leading Cause Of Tourist Deaths

Breathing through a tube is uniquely challenging. And it can turn deadly for those who have health issues but don't recognize the risk.
Families Shoulder A Hefty Burden When A Visitor Dies In Hawaii Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Chapter 3: Families Shoulder A Hefty Burden When A Visitor Dies In Hawaii

Getting a loved one back home can be a tedious and costly process.
Is Hawaii Doing Enough To Oversee Commercial Tour Operators? Flickr: Ted Murphy

Chapter 4: Is Hawaii Doing Enough To Oversee Commercial Tour Operators?

It's difficult for consumers to check up on tour companies, including their safety record or whether tour guides are qualified and trained.
How To Save Lives Without Scaring Tourists Away Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Chapter 5: How To Save Lives Without Scaring Tourists Away

Ocean safety experts, tourism officials, lawmakers and families who have lost loved ones have definite ideas about keeping visitors safe in Hawaii.

Related Stories

‘Bigger And Stronger Waves’ Are Perilous For Visitors Cory Lum/Civil Beat

‘Bigger And Stronger Waves’ Are Perilous For Visitors

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii's unique topography, currents, winds and other conditions often catch tourists off guard.
Breaking Bad: Dozens Of Tourists Suffer Spinal Cord Injuries Courtesy: Todd Duitsman

Breaking Bad: Dozens Of Tourists Suffer Spinal Cord Injuries

Too many people are ignoring or simply not understanding the warning signs posted at many public beaches.
Pod Squad: Why Are So Many Tourists Dying In Hawaii? Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Pod Squad: Why Are So Many Tourists Dying In Hawaii?

Civil Beat staff discusses our new special report -- a multimedia series examining the high rate of visitor deaths in Hawaii.
The Tyler Madoff Story: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare Flickr: apasciuto

The Tyler Madoff Story: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

The death of a 15-year-old boy from New York highlights the need for tour operators to follow state rules.

Ongoing Coverage

Brittany Lyte: The Deadliest Beach On Kauai Might Surprise You Courtesy: Kyle Pearce/Flickr

Brittany Lyte: The Deadliest Beach On Kauai Might Surprise You

A researcher analyzed drownings over 42 years. The beach with the most fatalities isn’t considered the most hazardous.

Hawaii Tourists Are Drowning At Nine Times The Rate Of Locals Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Hawaii Tourists Are Drowning At Nine Times The Rate Of Locals

The 92 drowning deaths in 2016 represented a slight decrease from the previous year, but was slightly above average for the decade.

Experts: Why Do So Many Hawaii Visitors Die Snorkeling? Marina Riker/Civil Beat

Experts: Why Do So Many Hawaii Visitors Die Snorkeling?

A doctor says new full-face masks are a “recipe for disaster.” He wants to measure the breathing resistance in various types of snorkeling tubes.

Counties: ‘We Got Screwed’ By The Legislature On Lifeguard Protection Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Counties: ‘We Got Screwed’ By The Legislature On Lifeguard Protection

Council members, mayors and others remain frustrated by the influence a group of personal injury lawyers had on the decision.

Counties Pressure State To Protect Lifeguards From Lawsuits Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Counties Pressure State To Protect Lifeguards From Lawsuits

Hawaii’s four mayors and county council members say the latest draft of a liability bill still puts lifeguards and beachgoers at risk.

Counties Threaten To Pull Lifeguards Over Fear Of Lawsuits Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Counties Threaten To Pull Lifeguards Over Fear Of Lawsuits

The Legislature is debating whether to extend limited liability protections for lifeguards over the objections of a group of personal injury lawyers.

Counties To Track Equipment Used In Snorkeling Deaths Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Counties To Track Equipment Used In Snorkeling Deaths

A woman’s drowning spurs officials to consider the possible hidden dangers of full-face snorkeling masks.

How One Woman’s Snorkeling Death Might Help Save Lives Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

How One Woman’s Snorkeling Death Might Help Save Lives

Her husband thinks a new style of mask may be to blame, but no one keeps track of the equipment being used when someone drowns.

How A Big Island Family’s Tragedy Is Saving Lives Today Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

How A Big Island Family’s Tragedy Is Saving Lives Today

A couple lost their son in a hiking fall 20 years ago. They turned their grief into a memorial foundation raising money for lifeguards and firefighters.

Kauai Logs 12th Drowning Of 2016 — Twice As Many As Last Year Courtesy: Kyle Pearce/Flickr

Kauai Logs 12th Drowning Of 2016 — Twice As Many As Last Year

Two tourists die in two days on the Garden Isle, one at Poipu Beach and the other at Larsen’s Beach.

Three Visitors Die In One Week Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Three Visitors Die In One Week

The drowning of an Australia man marked the third tourist death in three days.
Disappointed? New Warning Signs Soft-Pedal Real Danger Hawaii Department of Health

Disappointed? New Warning Signs Soft-Pedal Real Danger

State and tourism officials just don't want to say anything that could scare tourists — especially when it comes to drowning in Hawaii.
Visitor Drowns Swimming Off Kauai Flickr: Dave and Margie Hill

Visitor Drowns Swimming Off Kauai

He was 57 years old, visiting from Washington, D.C.
Hawaii Lifeguards Get 16 Percent Raises Under New Union Contract Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Hawaii Lifeguards Get 16 Percent Raises Under New Union Contract

They had pushed for a lot more, but state and county employers had offered a lot less. An arbitrator settled the issue.
Search Over For Man Swept To Sea Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Search Over For Man Swept To Sea

The visitor from Chicago was taking pictures at Queen's Bath on Kauai.
Kite Surfer Found Dead Off Maui Flickr: Forest and Kim Starr

Kite Surfer Found Dead Off Maui

The California visitor was out in heavy surf Thursday.
Visitor Dies After Cliff Jumping On Big Island

Visitor Dies After Cliff Jumping On Big Island

A 36-year-old man died in waters off the west coast of Hawaii island.
Visitor Drowns Snorkeling On Kauai Courtesy: NASA

Visitor Drowns Snorkeling On Kauai

The Oregon man was found unresponsive off of the south shore.
Kauai Lifeguards Rescue Local Man In Huge Surf Off Lumahai Courtesy: Terry Lilley

Kauai Lifeguards Rescue Local Man In Huge Surf Off Lumahai

The 29-year-old Hanalei man was swept out to sea off the north shore Wednesday. A marine biologist said dozens of other beachgoers were endangered.
Visitor Drowned After Lifeguards’ Day Ended Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Visitor Drowned After Lifeguards’ Day Ended

A Maryland man died at a beach that is guarded most of the day, but not early in the morning or later in the evening.
Todd Simmons: Lessons From A Near Tragedy PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Todd Simmons: Lessons From A Near Tragedy

"Dying for Vacation" detailed the sad fates that meet too many visitors to Hawaii's coastal waters. But as this writer learned, the risks aren't limited to tourists.
The Projector: Paradise Can Be Perilous Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Projector: Paradise Can Be Perilous

Signs can be posted and lifeguards can keep watch, but there are hazards inherent in enjoying all the islands have to offer. And not everyone is being careful.
Visitor Dies Kayaking Off Molokai

Visitor Dies Kayaking Off Molokai

An Oklahoma man was hit by a wave and fell into the water.