Kamilo Beach – Naalehu, Hawaii - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Naalehu, Hawaii

Kamilo Beach

Formerly a lovely white sand beach this Hawaiian stretch is now a trap for countless tons of trash. 

Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach, nicknamed “Trash Beach,” or “Plastic Beach,” accumulates garbage and marine debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in astounding proportions. 

Located near the tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, the southernmost point of the United States, lies Kamilo beach. Due to the unique currents that run near there, marine debris such as animal carcasses and logs would wash up, making it a prime spot for the native Hawaiians to collect logs for dugout canoes. However, it is those same currents that are now dragging a near constant stream of trash to the formerly pristine shores. 

Today, the beach receives fewer washed up logs, and much more plastic. In fact, 90% of its garbage is plastic, with plenty of it coming from as far away as Japan. Much of the refuse comes from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which extends across an areas roughly the size of Texas. Mixed in the sand is millions of tiny pieces of weathered colorful plastic, making it one of the most unique, if not depressing, beaches in the world. Sadly much of the debris is fishing related, likely dumped off of boats or piers in fishing areas. Nets, traps and crates make up a great deal of the debris.

Nowadays there are numerous groups who visit the beach each year to help clean it up and keep it somewhat usable, but even with these efforts, the beach is nearly constantly covered in trash like some sort of tropical New York City gutter. 

Know Before You Go

The beach is difficult to reach, as there are no paved roads leading there, and the existing "road" is through a maze of sharp volcanic rock. Not recommended for anyone without a 4-wheel drive vehicle with a high axle.