3/25/22: Kauai’s Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge, Lighthouse & More

Family & friends,

If you’re a birder, I am sure you’d have relished going to the Kilauea Nationa Wildlife Refuge on Kauai’s North Shore even more than we did. Even though we’ve been fortunate to have been in some of the most beautiful birding spots in the world, the birding bug has still never quite caught on with us. However, the chance to visit one of the island’s most spectacular sights wasn’t one we wanted to miss.  If you’re like us and also not a birder, I hope you will just enjoy the shots I was able to capture of the coastline. 

All the best to you and your loved ones,


Steven and I were extremely lucky that our condo in the Princeville resort community on Kauai’s North Shore was so near the Ka Haku walking paths as we could walk for miles and never tire of the beautiful views. 

We hadn’t recalled ever seeing slate signs before those in Princeville.

Suellen: I wondered if you and Ron have ever golfed in Princeville before? If you haven’t, you should bop over to Kauai as the ocean views from the course were sublime.

I “cheated” finding out that these were Red-crested Cardinals by seeing a postcard of them in the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge gift shop a little later! The bird, also known as the Brazilian Cardinal, was first introduced to Hawaii from South America. I also learned it’s fond of eating indigenous akoko plants at the refuge.

This was our first sighting of an albatross – we only knew what it was several minutes later when we walked on the Makai Golf Course path and saw a sign with a picture of them! After hearing the expression forever about “an albatross around your head,” I certainly thought they would have been hugely bigger!

The albatross nesting area was among these trees on the golf course so there were signs cautioning golfers and walkers to stay clear.

Several minutes later, we saw what we figured had to be an albatross mating dance while walking on the path by the homes in the background. I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not taking photos of the two albatrosses rapidly circling and bowing, and raising their beaks skyward.

We arrived at the tee when the group of yoga participants was just finishing their morning workout.

We wouldn’t have wanted to be on this tee in an even stronger wind lest we were flung into the bushes below!

Too cute a lawn ornament to NOT include as we drove later to the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse!

You could tell who all the early birds were, all impatiently waiting like us for the gates to open for our 10 am timed entry! We had to ‘contend’ with standing at the barrier overlooking the bay and with a view of the Kilauea Lighthouse at the tip of the refuge  – so, so tough, right?!

Crater Hill was the large hill directly across from the lighthouse.

More of the oddly-shaped leaved Hala tree that we’d first seen at Limahuli Garden & Preserve. 

The diagram showed Laysan albatrosses conducting their mating dance in a complex courtship ritual – shaking their heads at each other, then pointing their beaks straight up in the air accompanied by whistles, quacks, moos, and bill-clacking. Just like we’d seen earlier on our walk!

We could see hundreds of birds across from us on Crater Hill but they were mere specks and I couldn’t have told you what birds we were viewing. Some of them, I knew, had to be Red-footed Boobies as I’d read they were year-round residents and the most easily seen seabirds at the refuge. They nest from February-September and roost and nest on trees and shrubs at Crater Hill.

Since the Kilauea Lighthouse, named after the late Hawaiian senator Daniel Inouye, was built in 1913, it has played an important role in the country’s history as the westernmost lighthouse. With Kilauea Point also being the northernmost point in the main Hawaiian islands and at an elevation of 180 feet, the lighthouse was the first location that ships traveling from Asia would encounter. After the ravages of time, use, and weather took their toll on the lighthouse, it was restored in time for the centennial celebration.

Kilauea’s ‘crown jewel’ was its Fresnel lens which was the largest clamshell lens of any lighthouse in the world. It used the refractive properties of glass to engineer a lens that would project light a great distance.

Kilauea’s unique signal was two flashes every ten seconds. The lens had over 400 glass prisms and a double bullseye on each side. The light from the oil vapor lamp was visible from twenty miles away at sea. Lighthouse keepers had to clean the lens daily of oil, grease, and dust.

As you can imagine, technological advances have made lighthouses obsolete. Kilauea Point was the last manned lighthouse in the Hawaiian islands and, in 1979, it was placed on the Hawaii and National Register of Historic Places. 

Thanks to the park ranger, we were able to spot lots of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters who nest in burrows on the ridge from now to November. I’ve got very acute hearing but I still couldn’t hear what is described as the unusual moaning and crying sounds they make.

The ranger said that it’s the refuge’s responsibility to mow the grassy knoll atop Crater Hill frequently to better allow baby red-footed boobies to take off and land.

According to pictures we saw at the refuge, the albatrosses we’d seen earlier were likely of the Laysan species. Nicknamed “gooney birds,” they spend most of their lives at sea and are only at the refuge from November to July.

The ranger said the White-tailed Tropicbird rarely strays from tropical seas and is found in all the oceans.

We’d hoped to catch a glimpse of dolphins and humpback whales but we were out of luck.

Though we certainly can’t claim to be birders, our experience at the refuge was still pretty magical on that gorgeous day. Seeming so many birds soaring on the trade winds and nesting on the steep ocean cliffs was special even if we couldn’t tell which bird was which.

I have no idea if this is an ‘official’ interpretation of what Aloha means but was it ever beautiful. 

Since this was our first non-rainy day on Kauai, we hightailed it to Anini Beach where we spent an hour or so soaking up the sun. We normally love to walk along the beach but the sand was very rocky which made it uncomfortable to walk on. 

Common throughout Hawaii are these signs cautioning drivers to slow down for the nene, the state bird that almost became extinct.

Also on Kauai’s North Shore was Haena State Park so we decided to check it out. 

The views were just as stunning as at Anini but the beach was a dream to walk on with fine, soft sand.

Across from the park was Maniniholo Dry Cave which sounded like an appealing option after spending the afternoon in the sun. As it was an important site to Hawaiians, visitors were asked not to walk on the entrance walls and to treat the cave with respect.

We could walk into the large open cave about forty feet or so until the low ceiling made further progress impossible. Walking on the sandy floor and hearing the faint sounds of water dripping down the walls made us wonder about its past. 

Driving on the island’s North Shore required endless patience as there was only one road in and out also some one-lane bridges to delay drivers even further. To drive from near the end of the road on the northwestern tip took close to an hour and it was only 15 miles! I joked with Steven that I didn’t mind how long the drive was as it gave me more time to knit – I don’t think he was too impressed with my view of things!

Next post: More beach time and the Pineapple Dump – a tough life, I know, but somebody has to do it!

Posted on April 9th, 2022, from the town of Wailua on the island of Hawaii as we near the end of our escape to the islands.


8 thoughts on “3/25/22: Kauai’s Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge, Lighthouse & More

  1. Nice to see blue skies after the rain you had earlier in this trip! I love the Red-crested Cardinals and it’s wonderful you go to see the albatross mating ritual. We witnessed it in the Galapagos and I was so amazed – it felt like being in a wildlife documentary 😀


  2. Everything looks so green and lush. I have always wanted to visit Hawaii and I am glad to see it vicariously with you guys.
    I like the Brazilian Cardinal, very cute. So many interesting birds there. How many days would recommend for this island?


  3. Thanks for reading the post, Gilda. We spent 8 nights on Kauai with 3 on the North Shore and then 5 on the South Shore. The latter time also enabled us to visit the East Side, the central Waimea Canyon, and also the southwest coast. There is NO road from the North Shore to the west and south.

    I wouldn’t have wanted to spend a shorter time on the island without feeling rushed as that’s not the way we travel these days. At our ages, we don’t feel like we may have many opportunities to revisit places so we try and see all that we want, within reason of course, while we’re in a new place. Our list of new places seems to be getting longer and not shorter somehow, too, even though we’re already traveling 6 plus months a year!!

    Please feel free to reach out if you have any further questions as I’d be only too glad to try and answer them. Also look for the upcoming posts on our boat tour of the Napali Coast and our self-drive of Waimea Canyon, both showstoppers in my opinion!


  4. Fabulous coastal views. We do like spotting birds although we’re not fanatical about it but it’s great to spot different species in different countries. We’d take birds over golf any time! That albatross “dance” would be brilliant to witness.


  5. Glad you liked Kauai’s coastal views in this post – think you’ll even like the ones in the next post about the Napali Coast more. Will be interested to know once you’ve read/looked at all the Hawaii posts whether it might prompt you to add the state of Hawaii to your future travel wish list.

    Not golf fans either but some stunning views from the course even if we had to contend with the officious official to see them!


  6. Love the Aloha sign! Tropicbirds are one of my favorite species. We saw many of them in French Polynesia and I will never forget how the light-blue color of some lagoons was reflected on the underside of the birds when they flew by, making them appear blue themselves! Magical, indeed. 🙂


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