By Jan TenBruggencate

A turtle on a deserted beach. Photo by Jan TenBruggencate

Years ago, I wrote a story in the old Honolulu Advertiser about a Kaua‘i beach without footprints.

It was just a few minutes’ drive from Lihu‘e Airport, but it required both the drive and a short hike. And there it was, a stretch of sand, rolling surf, a great view …and solitude.

I never revealed its location, and I won’t now. But I visited the beach again a few weeks ago. It’s been discovered. There was one set of eroding human footprints set among the bird prints and crab scratches.

It had been a few days since that previous visitor had been there, but it was clear that I now shared this secret spot with someone else.

As we go through our busy lives, we complain about congestion, about traffic, about standing in lines at grocery stores. But this little island paradise is congested mainly because everybody tries to be in the same place.

If you look at a map of Kaua‘i, the development zone is pretty limited. The roadways are busy, but there aren’t a lot of them. Some say they are busy because there aren’t a lot of them.

Over the years, we have added a lane or two in the busiest sections, and added turning lanes. There are a couple of bypass roads that feed back into the same road system.

Fundamentally, our road system is still largely the same one that was in place in 1970, when the population was 29,000 residents with three or four thousand tourists.

Today the population is more than 70,000 and we can have 25,000 or more tourists on the island at any given time. Triple the population, same road system.

Plus, half a century ago, people tended to work where they lived. Economic engines were sugar and pineapple plantations that were distributed around the island. Today, three-quarters of the houses are still distributed outside of the county seat in Lihu‘e, but most of the jobs are in the Lihu‘e area. That’s a recipe for traffic.

But all that said, on Veterans Day, I was sitting a few yards from a different beach with no footprints. Granted, we were all complaining about how bad the traffic had been getting there.

But once there, the bustle was gone.

The sound of the surf, a gentle breeze, and a couple of giant green sea turtles hauled up on the sand. As I walked away from my companions, and toward that stretch of sand, the only prints I could see were those of the crabs, the birds, and the corrugated marks of the turtles hauling up to where they could rest in the sun.

Not a single human had walked on that beach since the last high tide.

Beaches without footprints still exist on Kaua‘i. In general, you can’t drive directly to them. There may be a short hike, and maybe some clambering.

And you need to find them yourself. If some guide book tells you about them, it’s too late.

  • Jan TenBruggencate is a Kaua‘i based writer and communications consultant.