7 Tips to Avoid a Sunburn on Your Hawaii Vacation

Polo Beach
Polo Beach

What’s the one souvenir from Hawaii that you want to avoid?  A sunburn!  Due to the Hawaiian Island’s proximity to the equator, the suns rays are much stronger that what you might experience at home.  (Unless of course, your home is also near the equator.)  And, isn’t it miserable to get a sunburn on vacation?!

You do need to take even more precautions in the sun at the Hawaiian Islands.  Here are some special tips for preventing a sunburn while in Hawaii.

1.  Wear a higher SPF sunscreen than you might normally wear at home. In Hawaii, I use at least a 30 SPF. Most often I wear a 50 SPF or higher.  Even with a 50 SPF, I always come home with a tan.fullsizerender-18

If you have fair skin, you may want to start out trying something much stronger than a 50 SPF. It’s better to use a higher SPF in the beginning than to gamble with a lower SPF and risk a sunburn.  See how your skin reacts on the higher SPF before using a lower one. Though I like the concept of the spray on type sunscreens, from my experience, if I spray them on at the beach where it’s breezy, it is extremely difficult to get an even application.  My husband applied the spray type sunscreen onto my back at the beach and I wound up with a rather large and uncomfortable sunburn in the shape of Texas.

When choosing a sunscreen, make sure it’s coral-safe if you plan to be in the ocean. What does coral-safe mean? A coral-safe sunscreen doesn’t have the chemical Oxybenzone. That chemical is known to bleach and kill coral. We all want healthy coral to support Hawaii’s beautiful marine life.

We have tried numerous sunscreens over our many visits to Hawaii. After much trail and error, we highly recommend ThinkSport. It’s mineral-based rather than chemical based, which is safer and more effective per the experts at EWG.org. It blends well. It is sold in 3 0z containers which makes acceptable to bring in carryon luggage. On top of all that, it doesn’t contain coral-bleaching Oxybenzone.

2.  Don’t forget to protect your lips from the sun and  wind by using a lip balm with SPF of 30 or higher.

3.  Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your feet if you are wearing flip flops, sandals or keens.  My husband ended up with zebra-like tan stripes on his feet while he was wearing his Keens.  Be sure to re-apply sunscreen each time after you have worn your flip flops, sandals, etc, as the shoes combined with perspiration can wear the sunscreen away.

4.  Be extra cautious if you go snorkeling. Being in the water seems to amplify the intensity of sun rays. If you go on an organized snorkeling excursion, stay covered up while you are traveling to and from the snorkeling site. Re-apply sunscreen after you’ve been in the water. Rashguard tops with designated SPF are ideal to wear when snorkeling in Hawaii. We absolutely love our rashguard tops. If you don’t have one yet, a couple of good places to order them online is at Amazon and LandsEnd.

5.  Wear a hat or visor.

6.  Be aware that your average white t-shirt has an SPF of only 7 or 8.  A wet t-shirt offers even less protection.  So, don’t depend on a basic t-shirt to protect you.  There are some shirts and trousers on the market that are specially developed to protect you from the sun.  They are even tested to determine how much SPF they offer.  REI and Lands End are two stores that I know carries this type of clothing.

7.  If possible try to avoid outdoor activities between the midday hours of 11 and 2 when the sun’s rays are the most direct.  It might be better to schedule a spa treatment, go shopping, or grab lunch during those hours.

I hope these tips will help keep you safe and sunburn free when you go visit Hawaii.

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  1. I’m particularly sensitive to sunlifgt, and yet I thoufgt a 30 SPF would be OK, I read or saw somewhere that some people started at 30, but then went up to 50SPF. So before I went this year, I purchased the 50 SPF for myself and took the 30 for my husband. Well, I STILL got burned with the 50— I even putting it on WHILE RIDING IN THE CAR GOING TO THE BEACH!!!!!! Just by luck, some of our activities were inside, like the Ocean Center. But I still ran out of my 50 , and just by chance, found some 70 SPF at the Walmart, which I immediately snapped up. So be advised, the sun IS THAT STRONG—TAKE PRECAUTIONS

  2. Will be landing in Hawaii July 19th.for wedding on the beach. Any suggestion on what clothes I will have to wear that I won’t be hot in & look out of place. Have 80 SPF to wear.

  3. Thank you, Sheila, for these tips. I did not know that my fair skin would need a sunscreen stronger than 30 SPF. I’ll be sure to buy 50+ SPF that contains NO Oxybenzone. 👍

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