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Untouched Hawaii: 4 little-known natural wonders of the Islands preserved forever


Kamehame Beach, Kau, Big Island of Hawaii

Situated along the Big Island’s southeastern coast, this small, 24-acre beach plays a huge role in the survival of two kinds of rare marine turtles. Kamehame Beach is the country’s foremost nesting site for the endangered honuea (Hawksbill turtle), and a refuge for the threatened honu. Both species emerge from the ocean every year to bury their eggs in Kamehame’s coal-black sands.

Ocean pollution, illegal hunting and predators such as rats, birds and mongooses have threatened both turtles, especially the honu‘ea. During the nesting season, honuea hatchlings become food for predators as they make their perilous run from the nest to the ocean. Survival rates for the honuea are slim—only 1 percent make it to adulthood.

What’s being done?

In conjunction with the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Conservancy operates a turtle-monitoring program. During the turtle nesting season of June through November, volunteers camp out overnight on Kamehame Beach to watch over the nesting sites and ensure the turtle hatchlings safely enter into the ocean.

Can I visit?

Being an official turtle-breeding site, Kamehame Beach is closed to the public. The only guaranteed access would be through participation in the turtle-monitoring program. For more information on participating, call (808) 982-6090.

Photos: John De Mello (pg. 1,2), The Nature Conservancy (pg. 3), Richard A. Cooke III/The Nature Conservancy (pg. 4), John Replogle/The Nature Conservancy

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