on June 30, 2008
There are two reasons to visit Kilauea Point, one is that the view is extraordinarily beautiful under almost any weather conditions. The second is that you’re likely to see some excellent bird and marine life. You could also visit the point just to appreciate the Lighthouse.The lighthouse played a key role for the sugar plantations that once dotted the area, serving as the navigation beacon for ships servicing the cane industry and guiding shipping to Asia. Located on the northernmost tip of the Hawaiian Islands it was often the last sight of land before reaching Japan, China or the Philippines beginning with its commissioning in 1913. It was decommissioned in 1976, however the 52 foot tower and grounds form the focal point for the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and the Point is lited on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.Admission to the refuge cost $5 per person (16 and older), although for serious birders and nature lovers that might want to make multiple repeat visits throughout their stay you can also purchase a kama‘aina pass available for $20 that will give you unlimited entrance for a year. I’m jealous over anyone that will have the time to take advantage of that.The US Fish and Wildlife Service acquired the 31 acre site in 1985 and currently manages it as part of a 203-acre wildlife refuge. For some, the words "wildlife refuge" might conjure up visions of slopping through mud and swatting mosquitoes while listening to some eco-geek point out signs of where the animals "have been" while lamenting that "conditions just aren’t right today" to explain why they aren’t seeing anything larger than an insect. That’s an unfortunate characterization, however I know some people whose eyes glaze over when they realize that the wildlife I’m describing has wings or fins rather than martinis and sushi. A visit to Kilauea Point just might change their image a little though.It’s very accessible, just down the road from Kilauea town, you can gawk at the entrances to some very pricy real estate on your way past. Note that I said the "entrances", cause that’s all you’ll see these estates (a lot of dot com money, I’m told). Once you park, just pay your admission fee, then amble or roll up the walk to the point. I can almost bet that you’ll be there longer than you plan.Being the northernmost point of the islands, Kilauea is apparently as important to migratory bird and marine life as it is to shipping traffic. If you know what you’re looking for, you’re likely to see birds like the Pacific golden plover and the nene (pronounce it nay nay), the State Bird of Hawaii. Even if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll see plenty (hundreds? thousands?) of red-footed booby and frigate birds with the signage helping you distinguish one from the other.The booby is a cool bird that seems to just work the wind extremely well, but still needs practice on takeoffs and landings. The frigate bird is an agile catcher of fish, and sometimes it will try to steal the catch from other birds, in mid-air.If you’re neck becomes tired of looking skyward, just pan the ocean for sights of humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals and spinner dolphins. We’ve never seen the whales, because they generally pass by between November and February. But I have seen a dolphin or two, and I "think" I might have caught a glimpse of a monk seal (that doesn’t sound too eco-geeky does it?).In any case, you should leave Kilauea Point with an increase (of some kind) in your wildlife knowledge. The signage and viewing binoculars make that an almost sure thing. Did I mention that you can borrow binoculars there too?Lastly, there is a small store in the Visitor Center where you can purchase books, maps, instructional DVDs and other mementos too.You can get more information at the website for the Kilauea National Wildlife Reserve, along with a list of endangered plants and animals on the Endangered and Threatened Species page.
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