The lights are off at Kilauea Lighthouse. They’ve been off for nearly 30 years. Nonetheless, the lighthouse still “shines” as one of Kauai’s most recognizable monuments. In fact, the 52-foot structure stands at the northernmost point in the entire Hawaiian Islands.
Located on Kauai’s North Shore, Kilauea Point is itself a remnant of a former volcanic vent that last erupted about 500,000 years ago. (Today, only a small portion remains, including a 568-foot bluff.) The U.S. government purchased the Point in 1909 and began construction on a lighthouse, which was completed in 1913. For the next several decades, the Kilauea Lighthouse served as an important navigational aid for commercial shipping vessels sailing through the Hawaiian archipelago to and from the Orient. The lighthouse’s beam could reach 90 miles out to sea, and its lens was the largest of its type ever made.
Time and technology stand still for no one, however, and in 1976 the lighthouse was deactivated by the Coast Guard and replaced with an automatic beacon. Three years later, Kilauea Lighthouse was designated a National Historical Landmark.
Today, Kilauea Point continues to play an important role on Kauai. The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985. One of the few wildlife refuges open to the public, it includes more than 200 acres of protected land and serves as the home to migratory birds such as the Pacific golden plover, seabirds such as the Laysan albatross and even Hawaii’s state bird, the nene goose. It is the most prominent nesting and roosting habitat for seven of Hawaii’s native seabirds. Additionally, Hawaiian monk seals, humpback whales and spinner dolphins can be viewed from the refuge.
The refuge includes a visitor center with various exhibits spotlighting the birds, native plants and marine animals that reside within Hawaii’s National Wildlife Refuges. Volunteers are on hand to answer questions and lead nature hikes. The refuge receives about 300,000 visitors per year.
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.