Close to Princeville Resort is the historic Kilauea Lighthouse and National Wildlife Refuge. This popular North Shore Kauai activity offers a sweeping panorama of the Pacific from its historic lighthouse. Depending on the season and the day’s luck, you can see various sea life, including humpback whales (kohola), dolphins (naia), Hawaii turtles (honu) and Hawaiian monk seals (ilio holo i ka uaua) in the deep, blue water. During its recent centennial the Kilauea Lighthouse was renamed after the late senator Daniel K. Inouye.
New Hours Starting February 2, 2014: Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.
The Kilauea Lighthouse – A mid-Pacific guidepost for trade between the Americas and Asia.
“Beautiful is the revolving light of Kilauea, that flashes to the walls of the heavens. It shows forth its beauty, an exceedingly bright light,” is the English translation of the opening lines of “Nani Wale Ka Huila o Kilauea,” a chant by Wahineikeouli Paa celebrating the lighthouse.
Kilauea is one of the best preserved lighthouse stations in the country. The 31-acre complex which includes the concrete lighthouse, three fieldstone keepers’ quarters, a fuel oil shed, cisterns and a supply landing platform – has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. First lit in 1913, the original Fresnel lens is an 8-ton masterpiece of glass prisms that amplified a single kerosene lantern to reach 20 miles across the dark Pacific waters.
The lens is one of only seven of its type in its original position. It cost $12,000 and is now worth $1 million. Its beacon famously alerted exhausted pilots on a 1927 Mainland-to-Hawaii Army flight that they had overshot Oahu, enabling them to turn back and land safely at Wheeler Field.
In 1976 an automated beacon replaced the lighthouse. Community affection for the original structure was strong enough that nearly $1 million was raised for major restoration. Work began in 2009 and was completed for the centennial.
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
In the air you’ll see thousands of migratory seabirds, including Laysan albatrosses (moli), red-footed boobies, brown boobies, red-tailed and white-tailed tropicbirds, great frigatebirds and wedge-tailed shearwaters. On the green lawn surrounding the lighthouse, there are often nene geese – the Hawaii state bird and an endangered species. (please look, don’t touch).
One attraction of the refuge is how accessible it is to reach. The walk from the parking lot to the lighthouse is just two-tenths of a mile up a gently sloping walkway. Golf cart transportation is available for those who cannot walk. Once on the lighthouse point, there are multiple vantage points to see both flying and swimming wildlife with ease.
Use the available binoculars to get a closer look – and find out more about the animals from well-informed refuge rangers and volunteers. During breeding and nesting seasons, you may catch a glimpse of courting behaviors or of chicks in a nest.
The refuge, on the island’s northeast corner, is one of Kauai’s most popular visitor destinations. Open since 1985 and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s a prime birding location and a fantastic spot to take photos.
Its grounds also house many Native Hawaiian coastal plants, including: naupaka kahakai, ilima, hala, aheahea, and akoko. At some times of the year, special guided hikes into more remote areas of the refuge are offered. Ask the staff or check the refuge website.
The Visitor Center features interpretive dioramas highlighting native Hawaiian habitats and wildlife. A non-profit Kilauea Point Natural History Association runs the gift shop at the refuge and funnels about $60,000 a year to environmental education programs for Kauai’s youth.
TO VISIT: The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is open daily from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. and closed Sunday and Monday beginning February 2, 2014. It is also closed on federal holidays and at noon the days before Christmas and Thanksgiving. Entrance is $5 for each person 16 or older. Federal recreation passports, a kamaaina (Hawaii resident) pass, and the Federal Duck Stamp are accepted.
The refuge has restrooms and drinking fountains. Paved paths are wheelchair accessible. A golf cart can be arranged at the fee booth for those who cannot walk. Call (808) 828-1413 if you need further assistance.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: From Lihue, drive north on Kuhio Highway (about 23 miles) to Kilauea town. Turn right on Kolo Road, then left on Kilauea Road; it is 2 miles to the refuge entrance.