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Vol. 15, no. 6
Dec. 2012 / Jan. 2013


Public Domain 

Story by Julia Steele

Photos by Elyse Butler


Four years ago
best friends Katherine Garner and Carol Kettner set off from their homes in Makakilo, bikes in tow, bound for Honolulu to train for the Na Wahine triathlon. Biking through Kahala, they stopped at a small blue sign that marked a public right of way to a beach neither had been to before. They decided to investigate and came upon a stretch of sand adjacent to Shangri La that was, says Katherine, “magnificent.”


“I always have a book in my brain that needs to be written,” says the gregarious athlete — and on that day, standing beside the ocean, she turned to her training partner and said, “We should write a book about all of the beach public access points on the island.” Carol’s response? “Let’s do it.” Immediately she contacted the City and County, which gave her a list of tax map key numbers corresponding to access points, and the two began their quest to document every public right-of-way on O‘ahu. Now the fruit of that labor has just been published: O‘ahu Beach Access. The book details eighty-nine public right-of-ways located all over the island. A little legal history here: Regardless of who owns the land fronting Hawai‘i’s beaches, the state’s laws are clear: All beaches themselves are public property—and access must be provided.


Katherine and Carol traveled across O‘ahu on their self-described “grand adventure.” They found one access in Kane‘ohe that had a seaplane parked next to it and another that had been all but blocked off by hostile neighbors. They discovered that the North Shore has by far the best access points, and they even came upon a hotspot for nude sunbathing. Among their favorites? Number 3, Ka‘alawai Beach in Kahala, the beach that started it all; and number 16, “Spitting Caves” in Hawai‘i Kai, where “the rock beneath your feet literally rumbles.” In addition to the right-of-ways, the book also lists all beach parks on the island. “For us the greatest part of doing the book was being able to share this,” says Carol. “We’ve lived here twenty-five years and never knew that half of these places existed,” seconds Katherine. “And they’re amazing.”