Kilauea Point Lighthouse in Kauai Hawaii

Visiting Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse in Kauai, Hawaii

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Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is a must-visit in Kauai.

Located at the northernmost point of Kauai, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge encompasses a little over 200 acres and offers stunning natural beauty, as well as history in the form of the Kilauea Point Lighthouse.

It’s one of the top photo spots on this picturesque island, and an excellent sunrise spot. And visiting the refuge, which protects a huge population of nesting seabirds, is one of the top things to do in Kauai for birders.

A Hawaiian goose (nene) at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge in Kauai, Hawaii
A nene at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and advance reservations are required.

In this article, we will tell you all about how to visit Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Kilauea Point Lighthouse. Be sure to bookmark the guide if you plan to add Kilauea Point to your Kauai itinerary!

Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour!

Kilauea Point Lighthouse in Kauai, Hawaii
Kilauea Point Lighthouse in Kauai

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What to See and Do at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is mainly famous as a birdwatching location, so many of the things to do at Kilauea Point revolve around the birds of Kauai.

But Kilauea Point is also a breathtaking viewpoint and the location for the historic Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Point Lighthouse.

Take in the views from the end of Kilauea Road

One of the first things you will want to do at Kilauea Point is stop at the viewpoint at the end of Kilauea Road, just outside the entrance to the refuge.

Viewpoint at Kilauea Road in Kauai
View from the end of Kilauea Road in Kauai

It’s the perfect spot from which to snap photos of the historic Kilauea Point Lighthouse as it stands on the point jutting out into the Pacific Ocean.

You also have expansive views of the ocean, and the cliffs at Kilauea Point, and if you look closely, you can even see lots of seabirds, especially if you bring binoculars or a good zoom lens.

Do the short walk in the wildlife refuge

Next, enter Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and walk the short distance to Kilauea Point, where the lighthouse stands.

The walk is just 0.4 mile out and back, and paved, suitable for most visitors.

Paved Trail to the Kilauea Lighthouse in Kauai, Hawaii
Paved trail to Kilauea Point and Kilauea Lighthouse

Along the way, you will find several interpretive boards that tell you about the birds you may see in the refuge.

Park rangers are also usually present to provide more information and answer questions.

Take in the gorgeous views at Kilauea Point

Kilauea Point, where the lighthouse stands, is famous for its magnificent ocean views. The bluff is about 180 feet above sea level, the perfect vantage point.

View at Kilauea Point in Kauai, Hawaii
View at Kilauea Point

On a bright clear day, the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean looks spectacular, with the tall cliffs at the coastline offering a nice green or brown contrast.

One of our favorite photo spots in Kauai, Kilauea Point is worth visiting just to enjoy the views.

Admire historic Kilauea Point Lighthouse

The Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse sits at Kilauea Point, a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse in Kauai, Hawaii
Kilauea Lighthouse at sunrise

52 feet tall, this historic lighthouse was built in 1913 and its light served as a beacon for ships until the 1970s, when the lens was damaged. It was replaced by a modern rotating beacon on a pole a few feet from the original tower, but the lighthouse still contains its clamshell lens.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1979.

Although you cannot go inside the lighthouse, it’s nice to walk around the bottom and look up at the white structure with its striking red top.

Look for the Nēnē goose

As you walk to the lighthouse and back, keep an eye out for the Hawaiian goose, called nēnē.

Hawaiian goose at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai, Hawaii
Hawaiian “nene” goose at the refuge

The nene used to be endangered, but with ongoing successful recovery efforts, it is now listed as near threatened. It is endemic to the Hawaiian islands and the state bird of Hawaii.

Kilauea Point Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place to spot a nene (or three!): it’s a large bird. If you visit during the breeding season (August through April), you may even see chicks.

Spot other Hawaiian land birds

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is also a location frequented by songbirds and other land birds, so keep your eyes peeled as you walk.

Red crested cardinal at Kilauea Point in Kauai, Hawaii
A red crested cardinal at Kilauea Point

You will very likely see the junglefowl that are ubiquitous on Kauai, as well as zebra doves, rock pigeons, common mynahs, and red-crested cardinals.

But also look for less common birds such as northern cardinals, white rumped shamas, osprey, peregrine falcons, owls, Japanese quail, and other species.

Observe the many seabirds!

Possibly the most popular thing to do at Kilauea Point is observe the hundreds of seabirds on the cliffs and flying about the area.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is home to one of the largest populations of nesting seabirds in the state of Hawaii. Some of these birds are rare and endangered.

Red-tailed tropicbird at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai, Hawaii
Red-tailed tropicbird at Kilauea Point

Some of the seabirds you can see here include the Laysan albatross, red-footed boobies, great frigatebirds, red-tailed tropicbirds, white-tailed tropicbirds, Newell’s shearwaters. and wedge-tailed shearwaters.

There are some scopes mounted in the viewing area, but if you are an avid birdwatcher, you will want to bring your own binoculars so you can spend all the time you have at the point observing the birds.

Enjoy the coastal flora

Many native coastal plants can be found at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Plant lovers can look for naupaka, with its bright green leaves, small white blossoms, and fruit. It is a common beach shrub in Hawaii and has been planted all over the refuge.

The naupaka plant bears small white flowers
The naupaka plant bears small white flowers

Also look for hala, a striking plant with spiky leaves and sculptural form, ‘ilima, with pretty gold flowers, and pōhinahina, with small purple flowers.

Pōhinahina has a lovely minty fragrance you may be able to smell as you walk by a shrub. You do not need to crush the leaves to smell the aroma, and picking plants or plant parts is not allowed in the refuge.

Many of the plants and shrubs in the refuge were used by ancient Hawaiians for food, medicine, weaving baskets, lei-making, or other purposes.

Look for whales in the ocean in season

If you are planning a winter trip to Kauai, Kilauea Point is an excellent spot on the shore to look for whales.

Looking for whales in the ocean in Kauai, Hawaii
Looking for whales in the ocean

Every winter, thousands of humpback whales migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters to mate and breed.

While the whale season runs from November through May, the highest likelihood of spotting whales is in January and February.

Watch for tell tale spouts in the ocean, or a whale tail, and if you are lucky, you may even see one breach the water!

Getting to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Where is Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge?

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is located in the community of Kilauea, in the northeastern part of Kauai, Hawaii.

How to get to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

You will need a rental car to get to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Drive along the Kuhio Highway to the town of Kilauea, turn onto Kolo Road and then left onto Kilauea Road. Drive all the way to the end (about 2 miles) to the entrance to the wildlife refuge (see map).

Driving distances to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge are as follows:

From Hanalei: 9.3 miles (about 20 minutes)
From Lihue: 25.4 miles (about 42 minutes)
From Poipu: 37.1 miles (about one hour)

Kilauea Point Lighthouse on Kauai, Hawaii
Kilauea Point Lighthouse on Kauai

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge Reservations

As of this writing, advance reservations are mandatory for persons 16 and older in order to enter Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Children 15 and under are free and do not require reservations.

Reservations can be made online at recreation.gov if you are using a tablet or computer, and on the recreation.gov app if you are a mobile user.

Reserving one time slot allows you 45 minutes inside the refuge. If you are an avid birdwatcher or you otherwise require more time, book more than one contiguous slot.

There is a non-refundable reservation fee of $1.00 per ticket.

There is usually no cell signal at the entrance to the refuge, so have downloaded reservation tickets ready to show, along with a photo ID. Or bring printed copies of your tickets.

Great Frigatebird at Kilauea Point, Kauai
Great frigatebird in flight at Kilauea Point

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge Hours

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is open Wednesday-Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Last entry is at 3.30 p.m.

A red footed booby at Kilauea Point in Kauai, Hawaii
A red-footed booby in flight at Kilauea Point

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge Admission Fees

At the time of writing, there is an admission fee of $10.00 per person 16 or older. There is no separate parking fee.

America the Beautiful (National Park Senior, Annual, Military, 4th Grade and Access) passes are accepted at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Each pass allows entry for up to 4 guests (16 years and older). You still need to make advance reservations.

Be sure to bring you pass, along with your reservation tickets and a photo ID, for entry.

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Everything you need to know to visit Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai, Hawaii. Large population of nesting seabirds, coastal plants, and fabulous ocean views!

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