Scenic Peninsula Bluff is Favorite Bird-Watching Site
Set atop a rocky peninsula on Kauai’s north shore, the 203-acre Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is one of Hawaii’s finest bird watching locations.
Visitors are sure to see a variety of native Hawaiian birds including Albatross on the bluffs, Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters in burrows, Hawaiian Boobies nesting in the cliffs, and Tropicbirds and Great frigatebirds soaring high overhead.
The Lighthouse itself is a historic landmark that was constructed in 1913, standing 52 feet tall and perched atop the cliffs 200 feet above the ocean. Originally built to guide ships coming from the Orient, the Kilauea Lighthouse was active for 62 years providing a valuable navigational aid.
The original Fresnel lens that was used in the Lighthouse was the world’s largest clamshell lens, weighing four tons. It was made in France at a cost of $12,000.
A weighted cable and pulley system required rewinding every three and one-half hours. Then the weights would again begin their slow descent as the lens continued to flash every ten seconds with light being produced by an oil-vapor lamp which was replaced in 1930 by an electric lamp.
Eventually an electric drive eliminated the need for manual rewinding. When an automated electronic beacon was placed in the tower in 1976 the Lighthouse was officially decommissioned.
The Lighthouse peninsula bluff is the northernmost spot in all of the Hawaiian Islands. From atop the lawn near the Lighthouse visitors enjoy a panoramic view of the north shore coastline all the way to Princeville and beyond.
The rocky islet just offshore is called Mokuaeae. Large waves often crash into the rocks sending up thrilling explosions of foam and spray.
The waters just below the bluff border on Kauapea Beach which is commonly called Secrets Beach and is one of the north shore’s most scenic beaches.
Keep an eye out for pods of the energetic Hawaiian spinner dolphins often seen offshore. The dolphins are known for their acrobatics as they leap into the air doing flips and spins.
During the winter months humpback whales are often seen in the waters out from the Lighthouse. The whales come from Alaskan waters to mate and give birth in Hawaiian seas.
Binoculars provided by the Refuge allow you to scan the waters for leaping dolphins and humpbacks breaching or sending up spouts of misty air. Also keep an eye out for Hawaiian monks seals and Hawaiian green sea turtles which often frequent the waters just beneath the cliffs.
Birds commonly seen at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge include: Great Frigatebirds (‘Iwa), Red-Tailed Tropicbirds (Koa’e ‘Ula), White-Tailed Tropicbirds (Koa’e Kea), Pacific Golden Plovers (Kolea), Laysan Albatross (Moli), Red-Footed Boobies (‘A), Hawaiian Geese (Nene), and Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters (‘Ua’u Kani). A variety of other seabirds are often seen as well, though less frequently than those listed above.
A famous moment for the Kilauea Lighthouse came in 1927 when two Army lieutenants – Albert Hegenberger and Lester Maitland – completed the first non-stop flight to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland.
During the flight the tri-motor Bird of Paradise was running low on fuel as the crew had strayed off course and bypassed the Hawaiian Islands. When they were almost beyond Kauai they suddenly saw the double flash of the Kilauea Lighthouse beacon in the distance.
The aviators then turned back and found their way to Honolulu to complete the first trans-Pacific flight and make history.
Kilauea Refuge staff offer hikes up to top of Crater Hill, which is part of the 203-acre Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Crater Hill is reached by following a trail up from the Lighthouse bluff along the seacliffs.
Along this one-mile Crater Hill hike guides will teach you about the native flora and fauna as well as the geology of this unique region. Check out the Kilauea Refuge Visitor Center for some interesting exhibits about native species and the region’s geological history.
Coldwell Banker Bali Hai Realty has pledged substantial donations to help restore and preserve the Kilauea Lighthouse which is an important north shore landmark.
See the Garden Island Article about Bali Hai’s efforts to help in the restoration of the historic lighthouse including repairing the cast-iron roof and lantern assembly as well as stabilizing the fragile lens.