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Taking souvenirs from beaches and parks is extremely common for tourists visiting Hawaii. However, removing natural items like shells, rocks, sand, or driftwood is technically illegal in most cases.

If you’re wondering whether you can take driftwood from Hawaii, here’s a quick answer: In most situations, it is illegal to remove driftwood from Hawaiian beaches as it is considered natural and cultural property protected by law.

In this comprehensive guide, we will dive into the laws and regulations around collecting driftwood in Hawaii. We will outline what driftwood is, where it comes from, why removing it is often prohibited, penalties for taking it, as well as tips for legally obtaining driftwood souvenirs in Hawaii.

What is Driftwood?

driftwood on beach

Driftwood refers to wood that has been washed up on the shore of a beach or riverbank by the action of waves, tides, or currents. It is typically characterized by its weathered appearance, smooth texture, and unique shapes.

Driftwood can come from various sources, including fallen trees, branches, or logs that have been carried by water and transported over long distances.

It is commonly found in coastal areas around the world, including the beautiful beaches of Hawaii.

Definition and Origin

Driftwood is formed when trees or branches fall into rivers or are washed into the ocean by natural events such as storms or floods.

The wood is then carried by currents and tides over long distances, undergoing a process of erosion and weathering along the way.

As the wood is exposed to saltwater, sun, and sand, it gradually loses its bark and becomes smooth and polished. The unique shapes and sizes of driftwood are a result of the forces of nature shaping and sculpting the wood over time.

Significance and Uses

Driftwood holds great significance both in terms of its aesthetic appeal and practical uses.

Many people are drawn to the beauty and uniqueness of driftwood, using it to decorate their homes or gardens. Its smooth texture and natural colors make it a popular choice for crafting furniture, sculptures, and decorative pieces.

Driftwood can also provide shelter and support for various organisms in coastal ecosystems, serving as a valuable habitat for birds, insects, and other marine life.

Furthermore, driftwood can play a crucial role in coastal erosion control. In areas where erosion is a concern, strategically placing driftwood along the shoreline can help dissipate the energy of waves and tides, reducing the impact of erosion and protecting the coastline.

It is important to note that while driftwood can be a beautiful and useful resource, it is generally not advisable to remove it from its natural environment. Driftwood plays an essential role in the ecosystem of beaches and rivers, providing habitat and nutrients for various organisms.

Removing driftwood can disrupt these ecosystems and have negative impacts on the environment. Therefore, it is best to appreciate and enjoy driftwood in its natural setting, leaving it for others to admire and for nature to continue its processes.

If you are interested in learning more about driftwood and its significance, you can visit National Geographic.

Laws About Taking Driftwood in Hawaii

State Laws

When it comes to taking driftwood in Hawaii, there are several laws in place to protect the environment and preserve the natural beauty of the islands.

The state of Hawaii strictly prohibits the removal of driftwood from public beaches and shorelines. This is to ensure that the beaches remain intact and undisturbed, providing a habitat for various marine and coastal species.

According to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources:

“It is illegal to remove sand, rocks, or other natural features from public beaches, shorelines, or ocean waters. This includes driftwood, which serves as an important part of the coastal ecosystem.”

This means that taking driftwood from public areas, such as state parks or beaches, is not allowed and can result in fines or other penalties. It is important to respect these laws and leave the driftwood where it belongs.

National Park Regulations

In addition to state laws, national parks in Hawaii have their own regulations regarding the removal of driftwood. For example, in Haleakalā National Park on Maui, visitors are not allowed to take any natural or cultural resources, including driftwood, from the park.

As stated on the official Haleakalā National Park website:

“It is illegal to remove or disturb any natural or cultural resources, including driftwood, from the park. These resources are protected to maintain the integrity of the park and preserve its unique ecosystem.”

Similar regulations can be found in other national parks throughout Hawaii, such as Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. It is important to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations of the park you plan to visit and adhere to them.

County Ordinances

Aside from state and national regulations, individual counties in Hawaii may also have ordinances in place regarding the removal of driftwood.

These ordinances can vary from county to county, so it is important to research and understand the rules specific to your location.

For example, the County of Maui prohibits the removal of driftwood from county beaches without prior permission.

Violating this ordinance can result in fines and penalties. Other counties, such as Honolulu County and Hawai’i County, may have similar regulations in place.

To ensure you are in compliance with local laws, it is recommended to check with the local government or relevant authorities before taking any driftwood from county beaches in Hawaii.

Remember, by leaving the driftwood undisturbed, you are helping to protect the natural beauty and ecosystem of Hawaii’s beaches and shorelines.

Penalties for Removing Driftwood

Driftwood is a valuable part of Hawaii’s coastal ecosystems and removing it without proper permission or permits can have serious consequences.

The state has implemented penalties to discourage the unlawful removal of driftwood, aiming to protect the delicate balance of the environment and preserve the natural beauty of the islands.


Individuals found guilty of taking driftwood without authorization can face significant fines.

The exact amount of the fine varies depending on the circumstances, such as the quantity of driftwood taken and the intent behind the removal. In some cases, fines can reach up to several thousand dollars.

It is important to note that ignorance of the law is not an excuse, so it’s crucial to be aware of the regulations regarding driftwood collection in Hawaii.

Jail Time

In more severe cases, individuals may even face jail time for illegally removing driftwood. While not as common as fines, imprisonment is a possibility for those who repeatedly violate the regulations or engage in large-scale removals.

The length of the sentence is determined by the seriousness of the offense and can range from a few months to several years.

It is important to respect the laws in place to protect Hawaii’s natural resources and avoid any legal consequences.

For more information on the specific regulations and penalties regarding driftwood collection in Hawaii, you can visit the official website of the Department of Land and Natural Resources at

Where Can You Legally Take Driftwood in Hawaii?

Driftwood can make a beautiful addition to any home or garden, and many visitors to Hawaii are tempted to take a piece home as a memento of their trip.

However, it is important to understand the legal restrictions on taking driftwood from the islands.

Hawaii has strict regulations in place to protect its natural resources and ecosystems, including driftwood. Taking driftwood without permission is considered illegal and can result in fines or other penalties.

1. Public Beaches and Parks

On public beaches and in state or national parks, taking driftwood is generally prohibited.

These areas are protected for their natural beauty and ecological significance, and removing driftwood can disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

It is important to respect and preserve these areas by leaving the driftwood where it belongs.

2. Private Property

On private property, the rules regarding driftwood may vary. If you come across a piece of driftwood on private land, it is best to ask the property owner for permission before taking it.

Some landowners may allow you to take driftwood, while others may have specific rules or restrictions in place. Always respect the rights of private landowners and obtain permission before taking any driftwood.

Also read: Trespassing Law In Hawaii: What You Need To Know

3. Cultural Significance

Driftwood holds cultural significance for the indigenous people of Hawaii, and it is important to be mindful of this when considering taking a piece.

In Hawaiian culture, driftwood is often used in traditional crafts and ceremonies. Taking driftwood without permission can be seen as disrespectful and insensitive to the local culture. It is always best to err on the side of caution and leave the driftwood where it is.

4. Alternative Options

If you are interested in incorporating driftwood into your home decor, there are alternative options available.

Many stores in Hawaii sell legally sourced and ethically harvested driftwood that can be purchased as souvenirs. By supporting local businesses and artisans, you can enjoy the beauty of driftwood without contributing to the depletion of natural resources.

Remember, the best way to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii’s driftwood is to leave it where it belongs. By respecting the laws and regulations in place, as well as the cultural significance of driftwood, we can all contribute to the preservation of Hawaii’s natural beauty for future generations to enjoy.

Tips for Finding Legal Driftwood in Hawaii

Driftwood can be a beautiful and unique addition to your home decor or crafting projects.

If you’re in Hawaii and are wondering if you can take driftwood from the beaches, here are some tips to help you find legal sources:

Check for Permit Requirements

Before you start collecting driftwood, it’s essential to check for any permit requirements. Some areas in Hawaii may have regulations in place to protect the natural environment and ensure the sustainability of the beaches.

Check with the local authorities or the Department of Land and Natural Resources website for information on any permits needed.

Look for Beach Cleanup Events

Participating in beach cleanup events is not only a great way to give back to the community, but it can also be an opportunity to find driftwood legally.

Many organizations organize regular beach cleanups where you can help remove trash and debris from the shorelines. During these events, you may come across pieces of driftwood that have washed ashore.

Just make sure to obtain permission from the organizers before taking any items.

Shop at Stores that Sell Salvaged Wood

If you’re looking for driftwood for your crafting projects, consider shopping at stores that sell salvaged wood.

These stores often source their materials sustainably and legally, ensuring that you are purchasing driftwood that has been obtained with the proper permits.

Additionally, buying from these stores supports local businesses and promotes eco-friendly practices.

Buy from Crafters and Artists Using Beachcombed Materials

Another great way to find legal driftwood in Hawaii is by purchasing from crafters and artists who use beachcombed materials.

Many talented individuals create stunning pieces of art and handmade crafts using driftwood they have collected from the beaches. By supporting these artists, you not only get a unique piece but also contribute to the local art scene.

Remember, it’s important to respect the natural environment and follow any regulations in place when collecting driftwood.

By following these tips, you can find legal sources of driftwood in Hawaii and enjoy the beauty of nature responsibly.

Also read: Can You Take Seashells From Hawaii Beaches Leggaly?


Although collecting driftwood may seem harmless, taking it from protected beaches and parks in Hawaii can lead to stiff penalties.

Following local laws and ordinances demonstrates respect for Hawaiian natural resources and culture.

With some research and creativity, you can often find legal sources of weathered driftwood in Hawaii to take home as a sustainable souvenir.

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