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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.