Category Archives: Health

Does Hawaii have mosquitoes?


Tropical, warm and humid all point to mosquitoes in Hawaii, yet few if any, of the guidebooks talk about them. Truth is there are several species of mosquito in Hawaii, two of which like to bite humans. One species limited to birds, but that’s not going to impact your vacation.

Which mosquito repellant?

Will you need to slather up with DEET in order to enjoy your tropical vacation? The answer is probably yes, depending on a few factors. Continue reading Does Hawaii have mosquitoes?

Sunscreen Reviews Under the Hawaii Sunscreen Ban

The best sunscreen is changing. The Hawaii sunscreen ban passed in the legislature in 2018 eliminates two sunscreen ingredients known to harm marine life: oxybenzone and octinoxate. This law goes into effect in January 2021. This gives makers of popular sunscreens, such as Banana Boat and Coppertone, time to change their products.

The reasoning behind the Hawaii sunscreen ban is to protect coral reefs and marine life. Banned sunscreen has damaged Hawaii’s fragile marine ecosystem. Formerly rich marine sites suffer, such as: Haunama Bay nature preserve on O’ahu and Molikini Crater off Maui’s west side.

Visitors to Hawaii can show their love by supporting Hawaii’s efforts to protect marine life. One concrete action is to change sunscreen. Furthermore, now is a good time to choose the best sunscreen under the Hawaii sunscreen ban. 

Local Tip: The best sunscreen is a mineral sunscreen because it works well and is safe.

Mineral sunscreens are generally safer for people and marine life.

Best sunscreen by category

What is behind these choices for best sunscreen?

Previously, I reported on the EWG’s recommendations for safer sunscreens. The Environmental Working Group (EGW) offers an annual review of sunscreens that are safer for both coral reefs and people. Beachgoers no longer have to guess at which products are safe. Meanwhile, many sunscreens release a toxic oil slick into the ocean. With a little advanced planning and cross-checking between Amazon and EWG, there are hundreds of safer sunscreens to choose from. 

For example,’s top-seller in the facial sunscreen category, EltaMD UV Clear, contains 7.5% octinoxate, which is not reef safe. Even if you plan to keep your face out of the water, overspray will drift and find its way to the ocean. This product is also not rated by EWG. It is a good example of why it is important to cross check before buying.

Why change sunscreen?

No one goes on vacation to Hawaii to harm the place. Yet, it continues to happen in Hawaii. This is because humans are subject to many cognitive biases that impact our thinking and actions.

For example, someone who just bought an expensive airline ticket to visit a Hawaiian beach will likely see that beach as beautiful. The mind ignores any signs of reef or environmental destruction because of confirmation bias. Clumps of algae overgrowth, dead coral heads, and few fish species will often not register with visitors as a problem. In other words, we see what we expect to see.

The common sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate kill coral that form the basis of tropical marine ecosystems.

Big Centipedes in Hawaii

This centipede was recently on my deck at home in Maui. I measured it at five inches long and one inch wide. This is why is why you never leave clothes on the floor and always check your shoes before putting you feet inside. This sting packs a punch like a large hypodermic needle. Judging the size of its clinchers (back most appendages), I am lucky it was on the railing, not the floor. It’s venomous fangs are located under it’s head, out of view in this photo.

[See another post showing a close-up of big centipede clinchers. And thanks to reader David for sending a link to this image of fangs.]

The tropics support an abundance of life, and centipedes are no exception. Unlike other tropical critters, this creepy crawler is not native to Hawaii. Centipedes were introduced by foreigners, along with a myriad other insects including mosquitoes and house flies. And like other alien and introduced species with no natural predators, they thrive and grow big.

Don’t Forget Your Slippahs

Most locals have stories about centipedes. People wince as they recount memories of painful stings, which many liken to injection with a large hypodermic needle. As a result, we always wear shoes outside, shake out bedding and clothing before use — especially if it’s on or near the floor.

My former housemate once threw a pair of jeans on the floor after he changed into his board shorts for surfing. He came back after ripping up some waves and changed back into his jeans. Unfortunately, he put on the jeans without checking for centipedes.

But in his defense, he had just moved to Hawaii from the Mainland and had never seen one firsthand. A big centipede, like this one on my deck, was inside and stung his leg from thigh to ankle as they battled over who would get out of the jeans first. He ended up in the hospital.

Up and Dry

Centipedes are known to nest in warm, dry areas, meaning that they crawl up during rain. Since we tend to have a lot of rain in Hawaii, especially in windward areas, I regularly find centipedes hiding under tarps, in plant pots and even under my car tires. I learned long ago not to leave pants, shoes, towels or anything else that I put on my body anywhere near the floor.

However, there is good news about centipedes:  they eat cockroaches!