TINIAN — An afternoon of aimless driving at North Field a couple of weeks a go took me and two companions to a fork in the road leading to Unai Chulu, or Star Sand, Beach, a popular destination known for its star-shaped grains of sand.
We saw a family that included a teenage boy arranging young coconuts opened at the top on a table. The price was $3 for each coconut and I wondered how they expected to sell a lot. I’ve been to this beach over four years ago but didn’t get another chance to revisit until that afternoon. We were exploring nooks unfrequented by tourists at North Field and heading to the beach was not in our plan, but we went there anyway.
It was a fun trip because we followed unfamiliar roads and ended up in more dead ends than we could count, but we also got to see more of the island.
But the boy convinced us to buy at least one coconut and told us a busload of tourists was coming. The boy then ran to the beach and motioned us to follow. He scooped a handful of sand and started sifting through it on his palm, looking very closely until he found what he was looking for and showed it to us — a tiny grain of sand shaped like a star. I’ve seen it before but not my two companions.
Unai Chulu was also an invasion site during the war. A Japanese pillbox on the beach gets a fair share of visitors each day.Unai Chulu is not your ideal beach if you want to lie in the sand to soak up the sun or even to swim.
The beach is bordered by sharp rocky cliffs and huge angry waves splashing against them. Thick shrubs cover the shoreline but its star-shaped bits of sand are unique. It may, however, take you forever and too much eye straining before you finally see a star-shaped grain of sand. I tried it before and almost gave up before I was able to identify one. But our new friend, the teenage boy, found a couple of star-shaped grains of sand in no time at all. Susan Manuel, a local businesswoman, picks up sand from this beach along with colored rocks and puts them in tiny customized bottles as island souvenirs. This means that the star sand of Tinian has already made its way to different parts of the world.
Moreover, MyBirdMaps.com website classified Unai Chulu as one of the top locations for bird watching in the CNMI. If you are on Tinian, visit this beach and check out its star-shaped sand.