Hunt For Ni’ihau Shell Lei

A Little Bit of HistoryKauai

PHOTO: HAWAII TOURISM JAPAN (HTJ)

The shells used to create NI‘IHAU SHELL LEI are akin to precious gemstones. They aren’t stones, of course, but TINY SHELLS that are rare and precious. Made only on Ni‘ihau, a private island off Kaua‘i’s west side, the lei are known as one of Polynesia’s finest ART FORMS . For generations, the people of Ni‘ihau have been collecting, matching and stringing these tiny, lustrous shells. Each lei can take up to six months to complete.

HEIRLOOMS to many, they are the only shell lei in the world that can be insured. The necklaces can sell for an average of $125 to $25,000, and state law protects the Ni‘ihau label. Expect to see knockoff s with slightly different labels. Kaua‘i, with its close proximity to Ni‘ihau, has an abundant choice of these UNUSUAL AND HANDCRAFTED shell lei. Look for them at shops around the island.