Field Notes: Want to Give Back to the ‘Āina? Make a Difference with This Beach Cleanup

Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vast and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: Kahuku Point Cleanup and Restoration.
Beach cleanup
Photos: Kaipo Kiaha


What it is

The Surfrider Foundation O‘ahu Chapter and the North Shore Community Land Trust team up with community volunteers and local companies such as Scott Hawai‘i to remove marine debris, clear invasive plants and restore coastal plants to Kahuku Point.


The Surfrider Foundation O‘ahu Chapter has been fighting for coastal access and water quality for 22 years, while the North Shore Community Land Trust has been conserving and restoring land for 20 years. Beach cleanups help get the public involved.


“It’s not just cleaning the beach; that’s not actually the mission,” says James McCay, volunteer and retired Surfrider O‘ahu executive committee member. “It’s educating the people cleaning the beach to go back to their own lives and think, ‘Am I using bottled water, am I using polystyrene containers and throwing them away, not consciously?’ It’s connecting our consumer lifestyles to what’s on the coastlines.” 


Why Kahuku

Kahuku Point is one of the last healthy coastal sand-dune systems on O‘ahu. It’s in pretty good shape, but group leaders would like to get it back to “full native status,” meaning no invasive species. 


“One of the great things about volunteering here is that you see the impact you make if you come out multiple times,” says Tim Tybuszewski, director of conservation at North Shore Community Land Trust. “You come here now and these trees are here, and by the end of the day the trees are gone, so you see a tangible difference in the work that you’ve done. Kahuku Point is a special place that not a lot of people know is out here and is available for the public to enjoy.”

  Beach cleanup


The scene

Volunteers park at Turtle Bay Resort and trek 20 minutes to Kahuku Point through a forest of ironwood trees alongside clear blue waves and a rocky shoreline under picturesque blue skies. When restoration began in February 2015, invasive trees covered Kahuku Point with pine needles. But, since the group has removed the trees and raked away the needles, native grasses and groundcover have taken over the sand dunes. 


What gets picked up

The debris on the beach at Kahuku Point runs the gamut from old toothbrushes to nets, ropes, containers from Asia, eel traps, fishing tools and micro plastics, defined as pieces of plastic smaller than five millimeters.


Where the trash goes

Sustainable Coastlines Hawai‘i has two depots at Turtle Bay Resort to collect recyclable plastic, which is then sent to Mercedes-Benz to create car seats, and Adidas to create shoes. 


At the March cleanup, Surfrider Foundation O‘ahu Chapter’s beach cleanup coordinator Matthias Keller estimated there would be roughly a large trash bag’s worth of plastic to donate, but every little bit helps.


“Environmental service is not a singular thing; no one person can protect our beaches, and it starts with education, so people coming out here, they’re gonna learn all the dangers facing our oceans, facing our coastlines and kind of how they can help out by making personal decisions such as not purchasing single-use plastic products,” Keller says.

  Beach cleanup


Who shows up

More than 100 people from keiki to high school students, young professionals to middle-age adults and much older. On the day we visited, Saturday, March 4, volunteers removed 1,870 pounds of litter, invasive species and marine debris in less than three hours.


What to wear

Safety first: Volunteers wear shoes, safety gear and sun protection.


The volunteers

Zachary WatsonZachary Watson, 9

Honolulu, student at Maryknoll

“I’m keeping some of the stuff like this beach glass to make a painting.”






Lucita Harbowy​Lucita Harbowy, 48

Kahuku, Turtle Bay Resort operator

“Volunteering is good, not just for me, but for everyone to enjoy. … Get my workout in and at the same time do good for the Earth.”





Matt ManleyMatt Manley, 28

Hau‘ula, high school humanities teacher

“We enjoy the beach so much and all the gifts of nature, it just makes sense to clean it up and give back.”






Surfrider hosts monthly cleanups at beaches around the island. For upcoming events, visit