Niihau island is dry and arid. With so little water it follows naturally that the material used for lei may not be flowers and greenery but shells such as Kahelelani Shells that are found in different colors.
Whole families are involved in collecting the shells from the beaches and they are then sorted and hand-sewn. A Niihau Shell lei is an intricate form of Polynesian art.
The island is privately owned by the Robinson family – imagine being offered a billion dollars for it by the US government and turning down the offer!