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.
DEET or not to DEET?
So will you need to slather up with DEET in order to enjoy your tropical vacation? The answer is maybe, depending on a few factors. Visiting Hawaii is not like going to the Amazon. There is no malaria in Hawaii and Dengue is limited to occasional outbreaks in the deep jungle areas, like the road to Hana on Maui. Catching a disease spread through mosquito bites is not a real worry in Hawaii.
How sensitive you are to mosquito bites is a realistic concern. If you live in an area with lots of seasonal mosquitoes (think Minnesota or Maine), chances are your immune system is not going to freak out over a few bites in the evening or while hiking near a stream.
However, if you don’t at least occasional get mosquito bites where you live, you may experience an immune reaction to the anti-clotting agent that mosquitoes inject into the skin while having a drink. This is what causes the red, itchy bump. In most people, it goes away somewhere between 10 minutes and 3 days (sooner if you don’t scratch at all). But I have witnessed some people experience painful, swollen bite marks that persist for days or weeks. These are the people lathering on calamine lotion and DEET.
If you’re not sure how you’re going to react to a few mosquito bites, I suggest (and I’m not a doctor so this is not medical advice, just practical travel advice) keeping a 20% DEET spray on hand for the mornings and evenings when mosquitoes are most active and use it if you notice you’re being bitten. Also keep some calamine lotion or Sting Ease handy to relieve the itching.
One way to naturally avoid being bitten by mosquitoes is to sit or stand in the wind. Hawaii’s tradewinds usually blow at 10-20 knots, which is strong enough to prevent any flying insects from landing on you. This is true for mosquitoes, flys and gnats. So opt for the breezy side of the restaurant or beach.
It’s also important to know that all hotels and condos spray regularly for pests, including mosquitoes. Hawaii’s tropical climate nurtures all sorts of critters, including big centipedes, roaches and ants.