Lava Rock & Sand Souvenirs

4.5 stars from 2 reviews
Why not to take lava rocks and sand home as souvenirs.

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Matt Anderson's Take
Guide Series: Hawaiian Mythology
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Everyone who comes to Hawaii wants some sort of souvenir to take home to remind them of their wonderful island trip. It's perfectly natural and what better souvenir than a chunk of lava rock which can be found in many areas of the islands.

I mean, it's just lying there. It's just a rock. There are tons of them around so who cares if I take one home as a souvenir? What could possibly go wrong here?


That's a pretty common scenario for many visitors, even those who have heard of the supposed curse of Pele - The Volcano Goddess. So what is this curse? Simple, taking home rocks is like stealing from Pele's home. She'll curse you if you do that and bad things will happen to you and those around you.

I'm not talking about getting the wrong order at Taco Bell, that's probably going to happen anyhow. No, far worse things could happen. Many often mention the death of pets or loved ones, job loss, trouble with the law, and other serious issues.

Remember when The Brady Bunch went to Hawaii and Bobby finds the small tiki doll that he keeps as a souvenir and then bad things happen to him and the family. It's like that, only far worse. Or so the legend goes.


Of course, most agree that the legend of Pele's curse isn't really an ancient curse at all. It's far more modern, though the exact origins are hard to pin down. Some say that a park ranger back in 1946 made up the story because he was tired of watching tourists take home rocks and sand, something that is illegal in U.S. National Parks. Others say that it was a tour bus driver who was tired of having all sorts of dirt and rocks bits left on his bus that he had to clean up.

Regardless of the origins, Hawaiians will generally consider the act of taking home lava rocks as a pretty serious offense. It's very much taboo and frowned upon so best to just not do it at all.

On top of that, there are many published cases of people who take the rocks only to have seriously bad things happen in their lives. The LA Times even reports on a case of a man who took home some black sand from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. After he returned home his entire life went south. A 5 year relationship with his fiance ended, his pet died, and the FBI arrested him in a copyright infringement case.


Hundreds of tourists each year actually take the time (and money) to ship the rocks and sand back to Hawaii. These returned rocks and sand often include notes of the terrible things that have happened to them and begging the park rangers to put them back in hopes of the curse being lifted. They're so desperate to lift the curse that thousands of pounds of rocks and sand are returned every year! That alone should tell you something.

Of course, it's hard to know if returning the stolen minerals will even lift the curse for you anyhow. I've even read that saying "release me from this kapu (offense) I oki (end) this" may lift the curse. Either way, you just shouldn't take rocks, sand, minerals, or plants away from the islands (unless specifically sold for that purpose). Leave it there for everyone to enjoy year after year.

What if it's too late? What if you're only reading this after you've stolen from Pele? You now have lava rocks or sand from Hawaii that you wish to return, so here are some addresses you can send it back to.

Rocks taken from Maui, Lanai, or Molokai:
Haleakala National Park, PO Box 369, Makawao, HI 96768

Rocks taken from the Big Island:
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, PO Box 52, Hawaii National Park, HI 96718

Rocks taken from Kauai:
Kokee Natural History Museum, PO Box 100, Kekaha, HI 96752

Rocks taken from Oahu:
Bernice P Bishop Museum, PO Box 19000-A, Honolulu, HI 96819

Sand taken from any Hawaii beach:
Division of State Parks, PO Box 621, Honolulu, HI 96809

Mention which island the sand came from, and maybe even which beach it came from if you know, and they will attempt to return it to the proper island.

In all cases, you should send your package with some sort of delivery confirmation so you know it arrived since you won't get any type of reply or confirmation that your item was received and returned.
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Matt Anderson
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Brett D
Joined: Mar 2017
Reviews: 56
Likes Received: 1
Okay, I admit I was a guilty child of bringing home a piece of lava rock when we traveled the first time to Big Island. When we arrived home and I took that piece of lava rock to class my teacher told me that you should never take from nature.

I was so worried that I told my mother (who, by the way, always taught us to respect nature but of course I was a stubborn child) that we needed to go back so I could replace the lava rock where I found it. We did just that a year later.
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Vickey W
Joined: Mar 2017
Reviews: 123
Likes Received: 43
Respect the land, respect the culture and in doing so you preserve it for years to come. Removing the natural souvies such as sand and lava rocks is a no no. If everyone who visited did this just think we would have nothing left. If you need it that bad just go back and visit.
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