Glass Beach, Kauai

Glass Beach, Kauai, April 2014

Kauai is known as the “garden island” of Hawaii for a reason: it has a plethora of amazing natural features for its residents, and for visitors. It also has one spot that radiates with an unnatural unintentional man-made beauty: Glass Beach. This beach is a little off the beaten path (but not by much), and will probably never be on any list of Kauai’s top beaches, due to its proximity to various industrial facilities. Nevertheless, if you like to visit strange or unique spots like me, Glass Beach is a spot that is worth a visit. The beach is in close proximity to the industrial area of Port Allen, and during the early twentieth century, was used as a dumping area for various items, including a fair amount of glass.

As the years passed, the residents stopped utilizing the beach as a dump; and the planet did what the planet does best – it reclaimed the trash and began to recycle the trash back into nature. Wind, water, and time smoothed out the pieces of glass, and turned what had been an eyesore back into something beautiful. According to what I heard, once the natural beautification process was complete, the beach itself was covered in large, stunning pieces of smooth glass that was seaglass, in hues of clear, brown, green, blue, and red, and was literally a beach that appeared to be made of glass.

Again, from what I heard, this was the point where man stepped in yet again, and began to naturally remove the trash-turned-seaglass as it was now beautiful. Today, an online debate is ongoing on whether there is glass on the beach; and or whether the current amount of glass on the beach lives up to the past amounts of glass on the beach. I’m not going to touch that debate, other than to say this: as of April 2014 when I visited, there was still plenty of glass on the beach. Having never visited before, I can’t say whether the current state of the glass on the beach is greater, lesser, better or poorer than before, but what I can say is that for me, it was pretty darn fascinating.

As the photos show, there were wide swathes of the beach that were covered in nothing but glass (albeit small pieces); and again, to me, this texture and color provided a surreal unnatural beauty that is different than most places on Earth. It was interesting to me to poke around these various pieces in various areas; and also interesting to me to explore the larger area of the beach, which had some interesting rusted out pieces of either cars or boats that had been dumped at some point; and all of these things made the area an interesting – and different spot to visit on the island for me.

Directions: Many websites make this beach appear to be farther off the beaten path than it actually is; in reality, the beach is located very close to Port Allen. The best directions I can give you are the following: follow the 50 (the main highway in Kauai) into Port Allen. When entering Port Allen, you will be at an intersection with a strip mall (the Eleele Mall) that has a McDonald’s on its corner. Turn onto the 541, also known as Waialo Road, and head toward the harbor (past the McDonald’s). After a mile, turn left onto Aka Ula Street. You will know that you are headed in the right direction as you will pass both a power plant, and the Chevron Port Allen facility. After a mile, the road ends. At this juncture, you can either drive down the dirt road (which I did in a standard drive car), or walk for two minutes down the road. Either way, the beach is readily apparent.

Tips: This is an area that is slightly off the beaten path in an industrial area. While it appeared to me to be safe in the middle of the day, especially as there were six other people raiding the beach for seaglass, be sure to take proper safety precautions as you would with any remote location. As for the larger issue of collecting pieces of glass, I’m not going to weigh in on that subject, as what people are collecting is fundamentally trash. However, what I will say is that it’s bad form to be taking a large amount of glass in a 5-gallon plastic bag (as I saw one person doing). My recommendation: treat the area as you would any natural area, and exercise leave no trace principles so other people can enjoy the area. For a bonus tip, head up the hill to explore the abandoned cemetery, which I will discuss on Monday’s blog.