#Kauai: Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Kilauea Lighthouse

About two miles, six or seven minutes, off Kuhio Highway (56) at Kilauea lies Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to the Kilauea Point Lighthouse, as well as sea birds and marine life. When Laura and I arrived at around 11:00 a.m. on Valentine’s Day we were greeted by the sign below and two people directing traffic suggesting we come back in the afternoon because there was no parking (you cannot enter the refuge on foot). However, after about a five minute wait, several cars came out and we were able to enter the Refuge.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge sign

While we waited, we wandered over to the fence and watched nesting red-footed boobies, soaring Laysan Albatross, some lolling sea turtles, and even a couple of humpback whales. However, neither of us have the sort of camera that allows us to capture credible shots of turtles and whales—all we get are brownish gray spots. The only good photos from the fence were of pounding surf the and the red-footed booby community (those white spots in the brush) above the cliffs.

Pounding Surf, Cliffs, Red-footed Boobies, Nests
Red-footed booby nests on the cliffs

One of the first and most important signs before you even enter the refuge is this one: Do Not Feed Wildlife! No, the wildlife here won’t rip off the top of your car to get at your stuff, but if you are inclined to toss them a treat, you shouldn’t.

Do NOT Feed Wildlife, Mahalo
First and most important sign within the refuge

We  first visited the refuge while vacationing here in 2012, but since moving to Hawaii Laura and I seem to have found a thousand reasons (excuses) not to go beyond Kong Lung Market in Kilauea, which is only a mile-and-a-half from Kilauea Point. However, since our first visit the lighthouse has undergone renovations, and reopened with the name of late Senator Daniel K. Inouye appended to its name. Shortly before moving to Hawai’i, we had purchased a lifetime Access Pass for U.S. National Parks and Recreation Lands which turned out to be valid for our admission to the refuge (otherwise $5 each), and since the Valentine’s Day weather was positively gorgeous, off we went.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse
Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Following restoration, the lighthouse’s lens still can cast a beam but does not rotate because the bearing that allowed rotation consisted of an open trough containing 260 gallons of mercury. Nevertheless, the 8,000-pound fresnel lens is impressive.

Among the endangered species, the nēnē (Hawaiian goose, and state bird) was the first to greet us on the lawn in front of the lighthouse. The number of nēnē was once down to 40 throughout the Hawaiian Islands and within the refuge, but the numbers now grow every year. This cunning nēnē totally ignored all the visitors and continued grubbing for insects and shoots throughout our entire visit.

Nēnē, Hawaiian Goose, grazing
Nēnē, the Hawaiian goose

There is an island, Moku‘ae‘ae (‘fine small island’), just off the end of Kilauea Point that supports its own colony of sea birds, which you can see dotting the rim in the photo below. To a certain extent, this rocky outcrop protects the point itself from the punishing waves. Although we witnessed it twice, we weren’t fortunate enough to capture a video of the islet’s impressive water spout. It’s well worth the wait for a look and listen of the spout.

Small Island North of the Point
Small island off of Kilauea Point

Looking to the west (your right as you exit), you get a splendid view of Kauai’s entire North Shore, from Secret Beach to Makana (‘the gift’), aka ‘Bali Hai,’ and Ke‘e Beach.

Kauai's North Shore
Kauai’s north shore

Before returning to our car, we stopped into the gift shop to refresh my wardrobe because my 2012 lighthouse shirt is no more – I wore it out. Just like that archival moment when a child gets their first driver’s license, my new Kilauea Point Lighthouse shirt is preserved for posterity.

New Winter T-Shirt-Kilauea Lighthouse
New winter shirt–Kilauea Point Lighthouse

4 thoughts on “#Kauai: Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Kilauea Lighthouse

  1. Beautiful! One of our favorite lighthouses. And I had to chuckle at your new shirt. My DH wore his out…it was the navy with white reversed (like yours). On our recent trip to the W. Coast, we toured several lighthouses and he came home with a new shirt wardrobe.


    1. Thank you! Yes, the Navy does wear out rather quickly, so I figured I’d give the gray a ride. At the moment I’m wearing my long-sleeved Navy Blue “Crater Lake” shirt (which my sister gave me) because I didn’t want to wear the new off my lighthouse shirt too soon.

      Speaking of West Coast Lighthouses, did you make it to Umpqua Light on the Oregon Coast?


      1. We haven’t seen that one. But we are discussing another trip to the NW. DH used to live in Edmonds (north of Seattle), and his house actually looked out on Point No Point. But this trip was No. California…the Pt Sur lighthouse tour was a favorite and we also saw Pidgeon Point and a few smaller ones. Glad we went back when we did given the recent slides on Highway 1!


  2. P.S.,
    Caught the tail end of a PBS video last night which reminded me of another Oregon lighthouse we visited (as we lived there for over 20 years), Heceta Head just south of Yachats, and the one we missed, Yaquina Head, just north of Newport.


Comments are closed.