Standard PCR (SPCR) and quantitative PCR (QPCR) assays using primers for general and for human-specific Bacteroides 16S rRNA markers were selected as the molecular tests to assess sewage contamination in recreational waters of Hawaii and these same water samples were assayed for culturable concentrations of selected faecal microbial indicators. The results of this study showed that the general primer for Bacteroides was not useful because ambient and polluted water samples were positive for this marker. However, use of human-specific primers reliably detected sewage contamination. The human-specific Bacteroides detection data supported previously reported conclusions that concentrations of alternative faecal indicators (C. perfringens, FRNA coliphages) but not traditional faecal indicators (faecal coliform, E cofi, enterococci) are reliable indicators of faecal contamination in Hawaii's environmental waters. The QPCR assay for the human-specific Bacteroides 16S rRNA marker was faster, more sensitive and more reliable than comparable SPCR assay because QPCR assay provided additional information such as melting temperatures, which confirmed that the right amplicons were being measured and Ct values, which indicated the relative level of faecall contamination.