Today’s Featured Writer: Joseph Miller from HomeAway
Compared to some places on earth, seashells in Hawaii may be harder to find, but when you do find them they are rare and gorgeous. The same powerful surf that makes Hawaii’s amazing waves and gorgeous coastlines can be hard on shells, so intact shells are not as abundant as you might think. However, they are there and they can be real treasures.
How and Where to find Hawaiian Seashells
There are a few secrets for combing Hawaiian Island beaches for shells. The first thing you should know is that you may not find many shells right on the sand. Hawaii isn’t like Florida or the Bahamas, where you find seashells strewn all along the waterline as you wander down the beach. Hawaii hides many of its shells in the water. Wade, snorkel or swim out a bit, looking near the reefs, rocky outcrops and ledges.
The triton’s trumpet and the horned helmet shell are synonymous with Hawaii, as they are the large conch-like seashells blown at Hawaiian ceremonies, such as weddings and hula festivals. Look for them in slightly deeper water – sometimes up to about ten feet deep. Keep in mind that this sea life is rare and valued in Hawaiian culture. Collect only abandoned or slightly broken shells, and do not take more than one.
Along Hawaii’s beaches, look for cowrey shells. The islands are home to 35 different species of cowrey, a group of sea snails. They come in all sizes and colors, and you’ll often see them made into jewelry and crafts as souvenirs. If you don’t want a slimy surprise in your suitcase, make sure to check that there’s no snail inside.
You can also find colorful pink and brown harp shells, pointy augers, and the broken bits of snail shell with natural holes in them, which are known as pukas. Sometimes you can be lucky enough to find the shells of sea urchins washed up along the shore.
For great shells, head to Hanalei Bay, the largest beach on Kauai and one of the best in the island chain. The two miles of gorgeous, golden sand have coral reefs at both ends that hold shells. Pu’u Poa Reef is on the left, and Waikoko is on the right. Rent a kayak and head out to search for shells in shallow waters, but be careful in the winter months as there are strong currents. At bit further east on Kauai’s north shore, Tunnels Beach also has good shelling beach due to its reef, and it has the added appeal of reportedly being the origin of the puka shell necklace craze.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, Hapuna Beach is a wonderful place to find large chunks of coral. The water is also clear, and the rocky southern tip of the beach is the best place for shelling.
On Maui, Kamaole Beach Park has good snorkeling and shelling around its rocky outcroppings, but an even better beach for shells on Maui is Keawakapu Beach. This stretch of sand also sees fewer visitors than other Maui beaches, so it’s less picked over.
Words of Warning
The mosaic-patterned cone shell is lovely, but do not even dream of picking one up if you see it on the beach. The cone snail will sting you, and it is poisonous. Stings from a small cone snail feel like a bee sting, but the larger shells have enough venom to cause serious pain and even death.
While it is legal to comb Hawaiian Island beaches for shells, remember that some may still contain live animals, some of which are endangered, valued or rare. Please check that your beautiful souvenir isn’t still some creature’s home, and be sure to put it back in the water if there’s still something alive in there.
One last caution: While it may be a lot less work to just buy your seashells at a store, you should know that most of what’s for sale is not from Hawaii. Check the tags, or find your gorgeous souvenirs the old fashioned and far more memorable way, by renting a Hawaiian beach house and playing in the waves.
Head to Hawaii
A private Hawaiian beach house along the shores of the Hawaiian Islands is the dream of a lifetime for many people. With tropical breezes, incredible volcanic scenery, verdant landscapes and the deep blue Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is a paradise. Naturally, you’ll head home with lots of photos, and maybe even a t-shirt or a couple bags of macadamia nuts, but the very best Hawaiian souvenirs are free and right at your fingertips. So head out, hit the beach, and find your very own island treasures in Hawaii.
About the Author
Joseph Miller is a writer for HomeAway as well as a content analyst for their Travel Ideas site. He has lived in California, Oregon, Florida, Texas and Tokyo and visits Hawaii with his wife and child whenever he can.