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On Walkabout At: Kauai’s Kilauea Lighthouse

Basic Information

  • What: The Kilauea Lighthouse
  • Where: Kauai
  • Cost: $5 per adult over age 16
  • Time: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm daily and is closed on major federal holidays
  • More Info: KilaueaLighthouse.org

Narrative

One of the most popular tourist attractions on Kauai’s north shore is the beautiful Kilauea Lighthouse that is located on a peninsula that sticks out from the rest of the North Shore:


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The lighthouse is located just outside the historic sugar plantation village of Kilauea.  There is a section of the village that has been nicely restored with various shops and restaurants that is well worth checking out before visiting the lighthouse:

Throughout the shopping area there is various historic pictures that are interesting to view that show the cultural impact that the Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, and other foreign nationals brought in to work the sugar fields had on the village.

One of the most well known of these immigrant families was the Lung family:

Lung Wah Chee arrived on Kauai in 1876 and after 16 years of living on the island he opened the Kong Lung Company which was a retail store for the plantation workers.  In 1902 the store moved to the location where it can still be seen today in the renovated shopping area:

Just outside of town where the Kilauea Lighthouse is located all this land used to be a giant sugarcane plantation.  The land had originally been purchased in 1863 from King Kamehameha IV to raise cattle by Charles Titcomb.  Titcomb sold the land in 1877 to John Ross and Edward Adams who plan to use the land to grow sugar.  In 1879 Robert Macfie Jr. bought out Ross’ shares in the plantation and moved to incorporate the farm.  In 1880 the Kilauea Sugar Plantation Company was formed.  In 1881 Kauai’s first railroad began construction on the plantation’s land and Hawaii’s beloved then Princess Liliuokalani drove in the first spike.  It was during the 1880’s that the various foreign workers began to populate Kilauea in order to work in the fields.

Due to the rocky cliffs that bordered the plantation’s property there became a need for a lighthouse to protect the increased shipping that was coming to Kauai’s shores due to the sugar boom.  In 1912 the Kilauea Sugar Plantation Company sold to the US government 31 acres of land for $1 in order for the government to build a lighthouse.  The land was known as Kilauea Point and was the northern most extent of land in the inhabited Hawaiian islands.  The land that was sold to the government was extremely rugged and not suited for sugar farming so it wasn’t exactly a big sacrifice land wise on part of the plantation:

It took one year to construct the lighthouse with it formally being dedicated in 1913.

Image of lighthouse construction in 1913 from the Kong Lung website.


Image of how supplies were brought up by ship via a derrick from the Kong Lung website.  By the way many more historic pictures of the lighthouse can be seen at the link. 

In 2013 this beautiful lighthouse and popular tourist attraction will reach an impressive 100 years old:

The 31 acre peninsula known as Kilauea Point is now administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service as a wilderness park.  The park charges a $5 entrance fee per adult over age 16.  There is a narrow road that leads to the parking lot to walk over to the lighthouse.  At times it can be difficult to park here due to the flood of tourists.  The lighthouse sees an estimated 500,000 tourists a year.  From the parking lot there is some great views of the surrounding coastline.  Looking at the rocky coastline in the area it was easy to understand why a lighthouse was needed in this area to warm ships of this dangerous cliffs:

Here is the view looking towards the west where a few isolated beaches could be seen separated by rock coastline:

As my wife and I walked down the path towards the lighthouse we noticed this old stone house that is where the family of the lighthouse keeper would have lived:

After a short walk we reached the lighthouse:

The lighthouse was originally powered with an oil lamp but was upgraded in 1930 to an electric bulb.  The lighthouse remained in operation until 1976 when it was decommissioned.  The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and handed over to the US Fish & Wildlife Service in 1985.

Compared to the lighthouses I saw in Australia this one was actually quite small but it is located on a very scenic peninsula.  At the end of the peninsula is a small island that is a nesting habitat for many local birds that could be seen flying all around the peninsula:

One of the things that the Kilauea Lighthouse is known for is that it is a prime location for spotting humpback whales:

It is possible to sign out for binoculars from the park’s visitor center but my wife and I had no issues spotting the spouts of water out in the distance from the whales:

We could also occasionally spot the tail of one of the humpback whales sticking out of the water:

Conclusion

Visiting the Kilauea Lighthouse is an easy and inexpensive thing to do when visiting Kauai’s north shore.  The views of the coast line from the lighthouse are quite nice and if visiting during the fall or spring the opportunity to see humpback whales is an added bonus.  I definitely recommend stopping by the village of Kilauea followed by checking out the lighthouse as part of any driving tour of Kauai’s North Shore.

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