The ugly side of paradise

KAPA‘A — Most visitors and residents will agree that Kaua‘i has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But the Garden Isle is not immune from trash — generated here and around the world — washing up on its sandy shores.

The problem can be particularly prevalent on the Eastside, which is battered by onshore tradewinds.

“We picked up 16 bags of trash from the beach,” Pono Kai Resort landscaping manager Steven Pimental said Friday. But even after all that was removed, the beach was still littered with mostly marine debris.

Pimental said he doesn’t know exactly why, but the beach fronting the Kapa‘a resort constantly collects trash from the ocean. He said a resort worker comes at 6 a.m., five days a week, and spends an hour cleaning up the beach. He usually picks up one or two bags full of trash. But with the recent wind swells, the beach was dirtier than usual this week.

“It’s an endless job,” General Manager Peter Sit said of the beach cleanup efforts.

The resort hires two full-time “kids” during the summer just to clean up the beach, he said. In addition, the resort conducts monthly cleanups, which are attended by residents and guests who volunteer their time and energy.

“We kinda adopted the beach,” Sit said.

Several beaches on the Eastside face similar trash problems, but some may have geographical features that augment it.

Pimental said the beach fronting Pono Kai is in a small bay, and there are a lot of strong ocean currents there.

The resort’s property ends at the Kapa‘a bike path, he said, where it becomes county property.

The county, he said, should be keeping the beach clean. He said that because of potential liability issues, the resort should not be cleaning up the beach. But Pono Kai does it anyway.

On Friday, there were several piles of driftwood next to the high water line. The wood was collected by Pono Kai workers. Pimental said his workers were going to chop the wood in pieces, using a chain saw, to make it easier to handle.

“We take it to the dump, and they charge us $10,” Pimental said, chuckling.

The county Department of Parks and Recreation is responsible for cleaning the beach parks and surrounding areas under its jurisdiction, according to county spokeswoman Mary Daubert.

“This particular area is not in our regular maintenance routine, and may not be within county jurisdiction,” she said.

Daubert said the administration understands volunteers and Pono Kai Resort employees have assisted with this particular effort, and the county is grateful for their support.

“We are all blessed to live on Kaua‘i and enjoy all its natural resources,” she said. “We all have a responsibility or ‘kuleana’ to each do our part to keep it that way.”

‘Clean and clear’

“Kaua‘i is fortunate to have many volunteer groups who assist in keeping our coastal areas clean and clear of debris,” Daubert said. “Friends of Lydgate and Kamalani and the Sierra Club, Kaua‘i Chapter are two that hold regular cleanup activities.”

A few miles south of Kapa‘a, at Lydgate Beach in Wailua, the situation looks worse than in front of Pono Kai. The beach receives tons of driftwood coming from Wailua River and other areas.

Volunteers from Friends of Lydgate and Kamalani once a month clean up the famous Morgan’s Ponds at Lydgate Beach Park. They throw all the wood in a pile in front of the lifeguard stand and burn it.

A long stretch of beach between the ponds and the likely soon-to-be-opened campground near Kamalani Bridge, the southern portion of the park, is completely littered with driftwood.

The new campground — which some Kaua‘i County Council members want to make a world-class facility — is on the council’s agenda for Wednesday.


• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@


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