HANAUMA BAY, OAHU (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - It's an idyllic tourist spot in East Oahu. However, the beauty of Hanauma Bay belies the truth surrounding it; it's a notorious drowning hot spot. The reason is due to a combination of factors involving everything from the geography to the park users.
The bay is almost entirely closed off from the ocean. This feature gives a feeling of security. However, the currents in the water are tricky.
"A lot of strong current going out through these channels, real easy to get out, very hard to get back in" said City and County of Honolulu lifeguard Ikaika Won.
Navigating those currents can be tricky, especially for tourists who are inexperienced with ocean activities.
"A lot of these people just don't know how to swim. You add a snorkel and mask to that, something bad is going to happen soon enough."
The State confirmed that 4 deaths happened there in 2014. Official records show that between 2004 and 2013, 23 deaths happened at the bay. All this, despite the Bay having the highest rate of supervision of any beach on Oahu.
"We have eight lifeguards in the towers, we have a lieutenant for the Bay itself, and then we have a Captain in the area" said EMS Spokeswoman Shayne Enright.
Despite the significant amount of resources allocated for a small area, some say more lifeguards are needed.
"There's always room for more, but we work within our means". Enright is referring to a 10 million dollar annual budget for the entire Ocean Safety Division, which is why Hanauma Bay employs additional, proactive safety measures. Periodic announcements over an intercom system are made in different languages. Additionally, visitors must watch a mandatory educational video before entering the park, though its effectiveness is being examined.
"We need to look at the video that's being watched - and we are, we are taking a look at it" said Enright.
While the introduction and safety video is being considered for an update, there's no timetable when or even if, it will happen.