The beautiful Hawaiian beaches include some of the best sand in the world: soft, comfortable, with some variation in size and color of the pebbles, not rocky. Photographs show the sky reflected in the receding waves on a palate of smooth sand. However, one thing I have not found in strolls along several beaches is sea shells.

I hadn’t really been looking for sea shells, but several recent visitors wanted to take some home as souvenirs. There were no lines of shells along the high water mark of the surf or partially buried in the sand, as we had seen on mainland beaches. I had previously collected a few small pieces of coral that look like small round white stones, but the only two sea shells we have are ones Rick found while snorkeling.

I’m not an expert in this area, but I’ve found out two things. First, it appears that most sea shells in Hawaii are found in the water, while snorkeling or swimming, especially near reefs or rock ledges. People don’t find them just by walking along the beach. Second, some people think it is illegal to remove rocks or sea shells from the shore in Hawaii. According to the Division of Land and Natural Resources, taking small amounts of sand, dead coral, rocks or other marine deposits for personal, noncommercial use is allowed.

However, Hawaii plays host to over seven MILLION visitors per year. If each of them takes back a piece of the islands, it causes terrible damage to the ecosystem. Further, in the view of the Hawaiian culture, everything in the islands is related: people, plants, animals and rocks. Removing parts of the island is an insult and highly discouraged.

It seems that a far better practice is to take photographs of the natural beauty in Hawaii and leave it as untouched as possible for the next person, or for your next visit. If you must have sea shells, buy some replicas at local shops and congratulate yourself for being a courteous visitor to the islands.


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