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Glass Beach - Kauai

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Glass Beach - Kauai

Natalie Nebilak

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Now this is a beach I'm particularly excited to share with you. Reason being, I've actually been there! Kauai is one of my most favorite places on earth, and I have been fortunate to visit a handful of times over the years. But my love for all things seaglass didn't really start until a few years ago, so I never even knew about it until quite recently. And in fact, if you didn't know Kauai had a glass beach, you'd never find it. 

By Travis.Thurston - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10076556

By Travis.Thurston - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10076556

Kauai's glass beach is tucked away at the edge of a little town called Ele'ele in Hanapepe Bay near Port Allen and a decidedly industrial part of town. When we first set out to find glass beach we thought perhaps maybe we had taken a wrong turn. But because of Kauai's modest size, it is almost impossible to take a wrong turn. There just aren't that many roads. But surely it couldn't be near the Chevron Refinery...or down this dirt road that seems to lead to nowhere...and is that...a CEMETERY!? Why yes it is. The McBryde Cemetery sits atop a cliff overlooking the south shore of the island (why anyone would bury their dead on an actively eroding cliffside is anyone's guess). Historical records indicate that the cemetery was used for sugar plantation workers who traveled from Asia at the end of the 19th century, so take solace in the fact that this is a "retired" cemetery and now a beautiful look out and a very interesting place to walk around.  

Yup, if you see these you're headed in the right direction.

Yup, if you see these you're headed in the right direction.

McBryde Sugar Plantation Cemetery. 

McBryde Sugar Plantation Cemetery. 

Click on the photo to learn more about the McBryde Sugar Plantation Cemetery

Click on the photo to learn more about the McBryde Sugar Plantation Cemetery

Yes, nestled between an ugly reminder of our current dependence on oil and a historical cemetery resides the ever so quaint (and quite interesting) Kauai Glass Beach. The beach itself is a product of years of watery erosion along the cliffside, which at one time was, you guessed it, a dump. You can actually still see old car parts sticking out of the hillside! So yeah, this beautiful testament to nature's endless wonders was first a dumping site, and then a cemetery, and now an oil refinery....(eye roll). Nonetheless, it is a still a spectacularly beautiful place and quite fun to tromp around and look for treasures. 

Car parts? I don't know, I'm not a mechanic...

Car parts? I don't know, I'm not a mechanic...

Although I have to let you know, the glass here is quite small, almost sand sized. My guess is that this is the result of either too many hands in the cookie jar, or perhaps just time. The longer a piece of glass is worked by the waves and the rocks, the smaller it becomes. But if you hunt around on the edge of the cliff to the east, you will most definitely find some treasures! It really is quite a trip to see old car parts and metal piping sticking out of the rocks along the shore. It's as if they had been melted in there, they are absolutely immoveable! This I assume, is the work of mineral replacement by the salt water combining with whatever was dumped in the ground (see dad, I AM using my degree in geology!)

Of course you must watch your footing, it can be a little wobbly and very easy to catch your toes on the rocks. And let's not forget to pay attention to the tide, you wouldn't want to get stranded on a rock and watch your only way back to shore become enveloped by the waves. The beach itself is pretty small, but beautiful all the same. While we were there a police officer rolled by very slowly. I'm not sure if this to keep an eye on transients that like to camp there, or radical tourists who are taking the glass! Either way I swear I didn't take a single piece of glass, Officer...

The view from the road that leads to Glass Beach looking south out over the water.

The view from the road that leads to Glass Beach looking south out over the water.

I'm sure with more time we shall see more glass on the beach. After all, it has a constant fresh supply of garbage from the old dump that is being worked away with diligence by the sea. And yes, it is a little out of the way to travel to, even if you are on Kauai. But it's worth it. 

Have you been? Don't forget to leave a comment and share your photos!