How common are shark attacks in Hawaii?!
Just how much of a danger are sharks to tourists?!
Well, sharks attacks in Hawaii are said to be rare, but they do happen.
Deaths from shark attacks are even more rare, but again they do happen.
As of June 2021, the last fatality from a shark attack in Hawaii was in December 2020. That shark attack death took place off of Maui, and it also caused an area surf competition to get postponed.
Prior to this December 2020 fatality, officially, the last death from a shark attack in Hawaii was in May 2019 on Maui. Unofficially, it was possibly October 2019 on the Big Island. (More on why it’s “unofficial” in a bit.)
How many shark attacks were there last year?
Officially there were 6 shark victims in Hawaii recorded in 2020.
These Hawaii shark attacks in 2020 happened on the Hawaiian islands of Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai:
- 3 shark attacks on Maui
- 2 shark attacks on the Big Island
- 1 shark attack on Kauai
About Maui’s Honolua Bay
Honolua Bay is part of a marine life conservation district on Maui, and it’s known for good snorkeling.
It was reported that the December 2020 Maui shark attack victim was a recreational surfer paddling out. (Photos below of a common spot to enter the water at Honolua Bay.)
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How many shark attacks were there in 2019?
Officially there were 14 shark attack victims in Hawaii recorded in 2019.
These attacks happened on all major Hawaiian islands:
- 5 shark attacks on Oahu
- 2 shark attacks on the Big Island
- 3 shark attacks on Maui
- 1 shark attack on Kauai
And there were 3 more attacks in the channel area between the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Molokai.
Most of the shark bites on Oahu in 2019 were considered to be provoked incidents. In this case, this means going on a “swimming with sharks” tour, but provoked incidents can also include fishing.
Of these in 2019, there has been 1 deadly shark attack officially recorded. This fatal shark encounter was on Maui. This also happened along the shores of West Maui.
There are shark tours in Hawaii
Yes, swimming with sharks is a thing, and you don’t have to be a professional to do so. You can go on a shark diving tour in Hawaii.
Have a look at the shark diving reviews for swimming with sharks off the coast of Oahu.
As long as you don’t die, being bit by a shark is no big deal…? 🤔
“Hey mom, I got bit by a shark, I need you to come pick me up.” Actual quote from a shark bite victim.
You need to watch the video below. Perspective!
How many deadly shark attacks have there been in Hawaii?
Since the time that shark attacks have been recorded, officially there have been 6 deadly shark attacks in Hawaii, and all of those have taken place on Maui. Those took place in 2020, 2019, 2015, 2013 (2), and 2004.
And it’s not official as the body hasn’t been found, but there was possibly one more deadly shark attack on the Big Island in 2019. It’s believed that a diver reported as missing was attacked by a shark. Clothing found was said to be consistent with shark bites.
So as it stands, there have been 6-7 deadly shark attacks in Hawaii since 2004, with Maui being the deadliest island in Hawaii for shark attacks.
Scientists say it’s not a coincidence that Maui sees more shark attacks. They say Hawaii sharks like the ocean environment of Maui’s shores. Read about it.
How many shark attacks have there been in Hawaii in the last 5 years?
From 2016 to 2020, there have been 37 shark attacks in Hawaii.
- 6 in 2020
- 13 in 2019
- 3 in 2018
- 5 in 2017
- 10 in 2016
This count is according to the State of Hawaii Shark incidents list and includes both unprovoked and provoked shark incidents. It also includes people who have been physically injured, and those people who had their equipment attacked but were not physically injured. (For example the shark bit their surfboard or standup paddleboard only.)
And if you’re on a shark attack research binge, there is also an International Shark Attack File of unprovoked shark incidents around the world. There’s an interactive map.
Locations of Hawaii shark attacks in 2019
Incidents listed below are as reported by the Hawaii state government.
You can check the statistics on the official shark incidents list here, as well as the whole list of shark incidents in Hawaii since it’s been recorded.
Covered below about sharks in Hawaii making the news:
Shark attacks on Oahu
- Makaha Beach while surfing, 100 years from shore in August
- Haleiwa (4), most while on a boat tour, a few miles from shore in May and September
- Kaiwi Channel (3) while swimming, 11-12 miles from shore in March, April, and July
Makaha Beach, West Oahu (Leeward Oahu)
Makaha Beach is on the west side of Oahu which is not one of the major tourist-frequented parts of Oahu.
The shark bit off a piece of a surfboard while the local surfer was left uninjured. Read the news story.
Haleiwa, North Shore
Haleiwa is on the North Shore, which is a popular tourist area.
Both Haleiwa incidents didn’t seem to occur near any beach, and instead happened a few miles off shore.
The details of the May incident are a bit lacking, but officially it’s considered a provoked incident.
In September, 1 or 2 sharks attacked 3 people around the same time on the same boat tour around 3 miles from shore. This seemed to be a tour that advertises swimming with sharks so it is also considered to be a provoked incident. Read the news story.
Kaiwi Channel (between Oahu and Molokai)
The other 3 shark attacks listed as taking place on Oahu happened in the Kaiwi Channel.
This is officially listed as an Oahu shark encounter, but it’s a channel that’s between Oahu and another Hawaiian island, Molokai.
All of the attacks in this channel happened are listed as happening around 11-12 miles off-shore, so doing normal tourist activities wouldn’t have you near the Kaiwi Channel where the shark attacks occurred.
See the video below of (not intentionally) swimming with sharks in the Kaiwi Channel in 2016.
Deadly shark attack on Maui
- Honokowai while swimming, 120 yards from shore in May
Honokowai, West Maui
The Kaanapali area is known as having among the best beaches on Maui. It’s a popular hotel and resort area in West Maui.
And it’s in this area that a deadly shark attack occurred, around Honokowai Point. He was a visitor from California with a vacation home on Maui. Read the news story.
There was a shark attack in this same general area of Honokowai at the end of November 2020. It is being reported as happening off the shores of Mahina Surf Condos, with shark warning signs posted “from Kahana Village Vacation Rentals to Papakea Resort” (map). Read the November 2020 news story.
There was a shark attack in Honolua Bay, which is also West Maui, just a bit further up the coast from Kaanapali, just past Kapalua. This is the deadly Hawaii shark attack in 2020. Read the December 2020 news story. Honolua Bay is a part of a marine life conservation district on Maui and is considered one of the top snorkeling spots on Maui. The area of Kapalua also has a number of good things to do for tourists.
Non-fatal shark attacks on Maui
- Kihei while surfing, 150 yards from shore in September
- Kihei while stand-up paddleboarding, 200 yards from shore in December
Kihei, South Maui
Both of the Kihei shark bites are listed as happening about a half mile north of Kalama Beach Park, which is the north side of South Maui. In both cases, there were no injuries reported, just boards being bitten.
While South Maui is another resort area, the main resort area is a bit further south in the Wailea area. Still, Kihei in general is somewhat of a tourist area.
That said, one of the 2020 shark bites is reported as happening around Wailea, with a paddleboard being bitten. It was also reported that “at least one shark had been aggressively following a group of stand-up paddleboarders who attempted to fend it off with their paddles.”
Shark attacks on the Big Island
- Kealakekua Bay while snorkeling, 15 yards from shore in August
- Anaehoomalu Bay while paddling, 35 yards from shore in April
- Unofficial/unconfirmed: Kailua-Kona while diving maybe 100 yards from shore in October
All of these attacks happened on the Kona side of the island which is the side where most tourists stay.
Kealakekua Bay, Kona coast
Anaehoomalu Bay, Kohala coast
Anaehoomalu Bay is also a tourist-frequented area, as it’s where one of the top resorts on the Kona side of the island (and the Big Island) is located.
It was reported that the attack happened in the area of Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort.
The victim’s leg was also reported to be “stitched and stapled back together.” Read the news story.
Kailua-Kona town is among the most popular tourist areas of the Big Island, but the shores off the town area generally aren’t considered a popular swimming area although there are a few beaches.
Notably, there is Kailua Bay, which is the location of the swim start of the Ironman triathlon world championship. The shark attack is thought to have happened just south of Kailua Bay.
The possible deadly shark attack that isn’t on the official list of shark incidents (because it’s a missing person) is thought to have happened near Kailua-Kona town.
It seems a diver went for a solo night dive and went missing.
His truck was found in Kona. It was reported that “search-and-rescue divers recovered clothes and equipment, which were found in ‘shredded’ condition” which is said to be consistent with shark bites. Read the news story.
Shark attacks on Kauai
- Hanalei Bay while surfing, 320 yards from shore
Hanalei Bay is known as one of the best beaches on Kauai.
And it’s around this area that the shark attack happened. Read the news story.
And that’s a bit about sharks in Hawaii, which is one of the dangers of swimming in Hawaii.
If you’re headed to the Hawaiian islands for your first trip to Hawaii, it’s important to be aware of the many natural dangers that Hawaii has!
This can include:
Just like shark attacks, there have been many people, including tourists, who have seriously injured themselves and/or died from activities related to tide pools, waterfalls, and hiking.
So it is important to be aware of the dangers of any place you visit in Hawaii. It may not be possible to eliminate risk completely, but it is possible to lower your risk just by being aware!
If you’re traveling to Hawaii alone, see tips for solo travel to Hawaii.
HAVE A SAFE BEACH VISIT HOPEFULLY WITHOUT SHARKS IN HAWAII!
Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
For a Hawaii experience you are sure to remember, get out on the open water to sail the ocean!Look for the reviews!
- OAHU: Take a look at a morning sailing trip like this one that includes snorkeling and sailing with the iconic Waikiki skyline as your backdrop. (It comes with a good chance that you'll be swimming with turtles!)
- MAUI: Take a look at a catamaran cruise like this one from West Maui to the coast of Lanai that can include snorkeling, seeing the West Maui Mountains and Lanai cliffs from the boat, and maybe even seeing some turtles and dolphins!
- BIG ISLAND: Take a look at a catamaran cruise like this one off the Kona coast for the chance to swim with manta rays at night. (One of THE most popular types of tours in Kona!) Or for a daytime boat ride, take a look at a sailing trip like this one off the Kona coast to go snorkeling at one of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island.
- KAUAI: Take a look at a catamaran sunset sailing trip like this one along the famous Na Pali coast.