Officially known as the Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Point Lighthouse, the Kīlauea Light is a 110-year-old lighthouse located on Kīlauea Point in Kauai, Hawaii (Kauai, Hawaii: I Hope You Like Chickens! 🐓🌈). First erected in 1913, it was automated approximately 62 years later, and the light replaced in 2013. Standing at 52 feet (16m), it’s the focal point of the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Located on the northern side of the island, it’s open Wednesday – Saturday from 10am to 4pm (closed Sun/Mon/Tues). It was officially added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
The lighthouse is just north of the town of Kīlauea, a few miles off the Kuhio Highway (a.k.a. Route 55). As this is the main highway through Kauai, it’s very easily accessible. You essentially make two lefts and you’re there. There is a small asphalt parking lot, but the additional parking is all on dirt, which can become muddy when it rains. The cliff section is completely fenced off, with multiple signs attached referencing the wildlife, particularly whales and dolphins.
The lighthouse was first constructed in 1913, on Kīlauea Point, which is a long and narrow peninsula made of lava. This peninsula was purchased by the Kīlauea Sugar Plantation Company in 1909 for exactly $1 USD (approximately $30 today). Since supplies needed to be brought by sea, a lighthouse was needed. It was completed in four years, built of reinforced concrete in a Classical Revival architectural style. The lens in the Kīlauea Light is one of only seven second-order Fresnel lenses still within a lighthouse in the U.S. today. It is now owned and operated by the wildlife refuge.
Important: you cannot get up close and personal to the Kīlauea Light without purchasing an entry ticket to the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Without this ticket, you also cannot visit the wildlife refuge. We learned this the hard way, as we were completely unaware that it was ticketed entry only. Only once we arrived at the lighthouse point, noticed the crowd of people taking photos from afar, and spotted the closed entrance gate, did we learn this. The gate requires a code to open, with a large sign attached to the fence explaining this, plus how to purchase a ticket. There is essentially zero cellphone reception on this part of the island, so you must drive back towards town, and purchase a ticket via the website. We attempted to buy tickets for the day of, and there were no tickets available for the entire week. So best to plan ahead!
Overall, this blog serves as a cautionary tale, so that you do not make the same mistake we did. If you’re ever visiting the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii, take an hour or two one day to come visit this historic lighthouse! One of the oldest lighthouses on the west coast, it’s an amazing historical landmark that any history buff should want to add to their list. Also, during whale season, you just might get lucky. Just make sure to purchase an entry ticket well in advance!