The dramatic landscape of Kilauea Point—a rocky promontory crowned by a historic red-topped lighthouse—is one of Kauai’s most scenic spots. And on this Island, that’s saying a lot. Pacific trade winds whip up the water surrounding the blustery point and drive them, shattering into millions of tiny droplets, against the more than 500-foot-tall sheer cliff faces. Seabirds soar and dive into the deep blue water for food.
Most of the expansive 203-acre refuge is off limits—it protects some of the largest nesting colonies of seabirds in the main Hawaiian Islands. But, from the short interpretive trail between the entrance and the lighthouse, it’s easy to find red- and white-tailed tropic birds, albatross, great frigatebirds, red- and brown-footed boobies and wedge-tailed shearwaters flying overhead. Hawaiian spinner dolphins, rare monk seals and migrating humpback whales (Nov. and April), can sometimes be spotted offshore. The area is also an important habitat for the nēnē, the world’s rarest goose and Hawaii’s state bird.
Visitors can climb the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse, built in 1913, for outstanding ocean panoramas on tours offered two days a week. A small bookstore and information center has details about the various birds and habitats in the refuge.
The refuge is seven miles east of Princeville on Route 56 and down Kolo Road. It’s often included in land-based Island tours. There is a $5 cash-only admission charge for guests 16 and up, kids are free. It is open Tues-Sat 10am-4pm and closed on federal holidays.
Lighthouse tours run every hour from 10:30 to 2:30 on Wednesdays and Saturdays but are sometimes cancelled due to staff ability (call (808) 828-1413 to confirm).