What’s Up with Kauai’s Red Dirt?

red dirt
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > What’s Up with Kauai’s Red Dirt?

Don’t be alarmed if your clothes get stained by Kauai’s infamous red dirt. Consider it an island souvenir from your Hawaii vacation on the Garden Isle, where the deep red dirt covers roadways, sidewalks, buildings and cars; it even makes its way into the ocean and rivers during heavy rainfall.

Kauai has become known for its red dirt.

Every time I visit the island, I can’t help but notice how quickly the landscape changes during a drive through the south side – from a lush, green Koloa town to a dry, sunny Poipu to the stretch of rustic red dirt from Hanapēpē to Kekaha. That’s miles and miles of red dirt. Why so red? The answer lies in the fact that Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands; like a fine wine, Kauai’s foundation of rusted volcanic rock aged over time (millions of years) until it transformed into the dirt we see today. The red color comes from the large amount of iron oxide present in the land.

Not only is it everywhere, it’s darn stubborn, too. Red dirt stains are permanent and impossible to remove. Some say that it’s the reason behind the Hawaiian custom of removing your shoes before entering someone’s home. Others, like Real Dirt Hawaii, call the local dirt a unique business venture.

An innovative use of Kauai’s red dirt – dye T-shirts with it!

By that, we’re talking dying shirts with “100% pure red dirt,” as stated on Real Dirt’s site. The company turned a disastrous situation into a growing business after Hurricane Iniki hit in 1992. It left the mom and pop silk-screening operation literally covered in red dirt. That’s when they had the brilliant idea of turning a disaster into a growing business by creating Dirt Shirts. They were an instant hit with the island community and later, tourists. Today, you can find Dirt Shirts online or at their shop in Ele’ele. There are other companies that use the same concept as well.

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