Kilauea Road, Kilauea - North Kauai, 808/828-1413.
This is a very popular attraction in Kauai (located on the northernmost point of the island) despite the rather small lighthouse (the lighthouse itself is not open to the public). Kilauea Point, which is a narrow peninsula that protrudes from the northern shore of Kauai, was purchased from the Kilauea Sugar Plantation Company in 1909.
The lighthouse was built in 1913 by 26 men as a navigational aid for commercial shipping between Hawaii and Asia. The total cost of construction was $77,982, $12,000 of which was used to pay for the giant clamshell lens. The lighthouse tender would anchor offshore and then dispatch small boats filled with supplies to the point. The boats would anchor to cleats cemented into the lava rocks at the point, and a pulley platform (90 feet above the water) would pluck the supplies from the boats and place them on a loading platform (110 feet above the water). The lighthouse’s beam could reach 90 miles out to sea, and its lens was the largest of its type ever made – credited with saving the first transpacific flight from being disastrous. The Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the lighthouse in 1939, which was lit each night until World War II, when the light was deactivated so as not to aid the enemy. The lens was replaced in the ‘70s with an automatic beacon.
The views are incredible (see pictures), and due to the refuge's rocky cliffs, it is one of the foremost nesting and roosting habitats for seven native Hawaiian birds. Birds include red-footed boobies, the albatross, the laysan, and the great frigate bird with an 8-foot wingspan. The lighthouse itself is understated and small, but the cliffs, the water, and just the views in general make it worth the visit. This is one of the few wildlife refuges open to the public that includes more then 200 acres of protected land, established in 1985.
I think you’ll find that there are more bird-watchers than actual lighthouse visitors at the point. There are volunteers there that answer questions and point out must-see things. We found them to be very knowledgeable, energetic, and friendly. There is a visitor center with exhibits that show the various birds, native plants, and marine mammals that exist on all of the islands in the Pacific. Views from the point allow you to see whales and dolphins swimming and playing in the Pacific and sea turtles closer to the bluff. The point is actually the remnant of a former volcanic vent that erupted about 500,000 years ago and has leftover a 500-foot ocean bluff.
Crater Hill is part of an extinct volcano that is open to hikers. Moku'ae'ae Islet is just offshore from the peninsula. It is another bird sanctuary and home to the Hawaiian monk. The islet also has a blowhole that spouts when waves crash into it. That is a great area to watch for rainbows. Hint: Bring binoculars – you will enjoy this visit more. Although the signs and website says that there is a $2 fee per person, it is actually a requested donation to enter the area, and it is done on the honor system with a big wooden box at the entrance – not a person.
Hawaii’s state bird is the Nene, and almost at extinction, there are about 200 that call this refuge home. Many incredible sights and breathtaking views make this a very enjoyable stop.
It is open daily from 10am to 4pm. About 300,000 people visit the refuge each year, with the revenue benefiting environmental programs. Note: There is also an extensive gift shop with statues, calendars, postcards, and tons of books. Picnicking is not allowed. Take Highway 56 north and then turn right onto Kiauea Road. If you follow the road to the end, there is parking and a viewing platform with beautiful and semi-different views than what you will see at the lighthouse. The lighthouse is a short hike up a small hill. This is recommended.