This one is for all of you mermaids out there, who love shells! Growing up in Hawaii, during my entire childhood I was obsessed with finding shells. I would spend hours at the beach, fighting the waves washing up on the sand or rocks. I would patiently search through the rocks and shells until I found a beautiful piece! Then I would scream and tell my family or friends to come over and see what I had found! Now that I’m all grown up, nothing much has changed! Traveling all around the world, I always managed to find a beautiful beach to scavenge for shells. The beaches on Maui seem to have less and less shells nowadays, making it more of a challenge to find a beautiful one. I would like to share with you 5 of our favorite shells you can find in Hawaii, so that you too can experience the bliss of finding such a beautiful treasure!
The Cowrie Shell
This is a beautiful shell, that is home to the sea snail. Believe it or not, shells of certain species have historically been used as currency in several parts of the world. They have also been used in the past and present in jewelry, and for other decorative and ceremonial purposes. The Cowrie Shell was the shell most widely used worldwide as shell money. Cowrie shell money was important in the trade networks of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia. This shell has a smooth round texture.
The best cowries are considered to be the big, shiny, dark colored ones that have little to know imperfections. This is extremely hard to come across! You will sometimes spot cowries while diving, or even on the beach. Sometimes they are very fresh and perfect looking when they are still alive with the animal inside of them! Please make sure to let it be, and do not harm it. We only scavenge shells that no longer have any animals inside of them so that we do not harm. It is smart to always check inside the shells before taking them home! You can find Cowrie’s in all different sizes and colors! Most commonly found on the beaches where the ocean washes shells up, or in the rocks.
This Is a marine gastropod mollusk in the monotypic family Charoniidae. These rare beauties can grow to over 20 inches in length! These are active predators, and feed on other mollusks and starfish. In Hawaiian culture, these shells were used as blowing shells in important ceremonies. The common name is after the Greek sea God Triton, who controlled the waves by blowing on his trumpet! These giant sea snails are stunning to look at out of water, but the live ones are actually covered in a purple-colored algae. They usually blend into the reef so divers swim right on by without recognizing them!
These shells are actually very important for the marine ecosystem! They feed on the poisonous Crown of Thorns Starfish. This large starfish eats live coral! Triton’s Trumpet makes sure that the Crown of Thorns Starfish doesn’t spread too rapidly and eat up all the coral. If you are an avid diver / shell lover, you will be able to find or spot this shell most likely while diving. Maybe you will find an empty one on the bottom of the ocean floor as a gift for you to keep!
The infamous Sunrise Shell. Talk about the ultimate mermaid find! This has become the most popular piece that every sheller dreams of. If you are incredibly lucky, you may find one of these on an early morning stroll at the beach. Maybe you will be snorkeling in the waves, and come across one! However, most people have go diving in deeper waters to find a sunrise shell. The “sunny” is very popular in Hawaii for its jewelry. From necklaces to rings, there are many different types of pieces! This shell gets its name for the color, looking like a sunrise. This special shell is definitely on our list of 5 of our favorite shells you can find in Hawaii.
Puka means “hole” in Hawaiian. Therefore, the Puka Shell is a shell with a hole in it. This could basically be a name for any shell that you find, that has a hole! However, a classic Puka Shell is a circular, completely round shell with a hole smack dab in the middle. The Puka Shell jewelry became popular in Hawaii during the 1960s as an attractive and inexpensive lei that could be made and sold on the beach. Then in the 70s, this type of shell jewelry became so popular that prices skyrocketed! You will find pukas on many beaches of Hawaii, along the shores where the waves wash up shells.
Hawaii has 34 species of cones! These shells range in size and colors, and can be found on the shores or snorkeling! There are brown ones, ones with stripes, spotted black and white ones, light pink or purple colored ones, and the list goes on and on! Once again, make sure that there are no creatures inside the shell before bringing them home!
Seashells appear after storms and ocean swells! You will definitely need to be patient looking for them, and scan the ground slowly and consciously multiple times. They can be easy to miss! Early morning is always the best time to look for shells. Make sure to dab on some reef safe sunscreen if you are going to go snorkeling. If the conditions are safe, maybe you will have some luck finding shells underwater, or even some turtles! Please respect the tiny but important animals that inhabit the shells. We do not want to harm our ecosystem. I tend to just choose a few of my favorite shells, and then throw back the rest. Maybe another animal will use it as a home!
Also, it is very important to be aware that taking home lava rock from Maui is bad luck. Leave the Lava rock behind and opt for some beautiful empty shells instead! The airport will allow you to carry a small bag of shells for non-commercial use. Now remember, taking too many seashells can also damage the ecosystem. It’s all about everything in moderation, and doing it in a respectful way toward Mother Nature. Good luck and enjoy searching for 5 of our favorite shells you can find in Hawaii.