Lighthouse Friends Home Page
 Kilauea Point, HI    
Lighthouse accessible by car and a short, easy walk.Photogenic lighthouse or setting.Lighthouse appeared in movie.
Description: Kaua`i, the Garden Island, has six minor navigational lights and two primary seacoast lights, Kilauea Point Light and Nawiliwili Light, adorning its shoreline. In 1907, the Lighthouse Board asserted that a first-order light at Kilauea Point, the northernmost point of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands, was needed to serve as a landfall light for ship traffic from the Orient. Two years later, Kilauea Point, a narrow, lava peninsula protruding from the northern shore of Kaua`i, was purchased from the Kilauea Sugar Plantation Company "for the consideration of one dollar," but before construction could begin, a method for delivering supplies to the remote point had to be developed. Due to the lack of good roads in the area, the decision was made to bring the materials in by sea.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The lighthouse tender Kukui would anchor offshore and then dispatch small boats laden with supplies to the cove on the west side of the point. Since there was no beach, the boats would anchor to cleats cemented into the lava rocks at the point. A boom derrick, constructed on a ledge ninety feet above the water, would pluck the supplies from the boats and place them on a loading platform 110 feet above the water.

Work on the 52-foot tower began in August of 1912. As excavation got underway at the site, it was soon apparent that the rock was not solid as had been indicated in the original survey. This forced the workers to dig down eleven feet to find solid volcanic rock and led to the tower having a unique feature: a basement.

The ironwork for the tower's spiral staircase and lantern room was produced by the Champion Iron Company of Kenton, Ohio, while the second-order, bivalve, Fresnel lens and clockworks were manufactured in France by Barbier, Benard and Turenne, at a cost of $12,000. When the lens arrived, it was discovered that the assembly instructions were in French, and an urgent message was sent to Honolulu, requesting help with translation. Fred Edgecomb was dispatched on an interisland ship from Honolulu to Nawiliwili Harbor and then rode twenty miles on horseback to the site. After he had helped translate the instructions, the four-and-a-half-ton lens was assembled in the tower and then floated on a bed of mercury contained in a nine-inch-deep circular trough, with an inside diameter of roughly six feet. The revolving lens, which was first illuminated on May 1, 1913, produced a double flash every ten seconds that was visible up to a distance of twenty-one nautical miles.

As part of a day-long celebration that preceded the first lighting, the entire population of Kilauea town was invited for a luau, featuring Kalua pig baked in the ground, sweet potatoes, and poi. Also included in the festivities was a shark shoot. The station derrick was used to lower a cow carcass into the waters at the landing cove, where sharks attracted to the bait could be easily shot.

The May 6, 1913 edition of The Garden Island, Kaua`i's newspaper, reported on the lighting ceremony.

The Kilauea Point Lighthouse, like the Cyclops of old, which swept the sea with their one fierce eye, burst forth its shining eye of warning to the mariner ... while hundreds of country people who had gathered to witness the wonderful sight made the shores and hills ring with astonished delight.

Three keeper's dwellings were constructed several hundred yards south of the tower and oil house that were located near the point's extremity. The homes were constructed of volcanic rock found on site, and each had a living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, storeroom, and laundry. Reinforced concrete cisterns were also supplied to collect rainwater from the roofs of the dwellings.

Samuel Apollo Amalu came to the station in 1915 replacing the first keeper, Harry W. Flint. Amalu was known for his swimming ability, and would frequently brave rough water, strong currents, and deadly sharks, to reach Moku`ae`ae Rock, a fair distance offshore from the point. Amalu served at the station for ten years, before he transferred to Makapu`u Light on Oahu.

Lens in Kilauea Point Lighthouse
Although the lighthouse certainly aided many a mariner, it is most known for assisting Lieutenants Maitland and Hegenberger aboard The Bird of Paradise, an Army transport plane. Just a month after Lindberg's transatlantic flight, the two lieutenants set off from Oakland on June 28, 1927 on what was to be the Army's first transpacific flight from the west coast to Wheeler Field on Oahu.

A new radio beacon had been established on Maui and was to guide the plane during the flight. However, 200 miles out of Oakland the plane's radio failed, forcing Hegenberger to rely on celestial navigation and dead reckoning. After twenty-six hours of flight, the crew was extremely fatigued. They were low on fuel and should have reached the islands by that time. In this moment of desperation, a flicker of light off the left side of the plane caught Maitland's eye. He banked left and directed the plane towards the light. After circling Kilauea Point while waiting for dawn, the plane continued on to Oahu where it touched down at Wheeler Field at 6:30 a.m. on June 29.

The lighthouse had literally saved the lives of the airmen. As Kaua`i is the westernmost of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands, had the flash of light not attracted Maitland's attention, the plane would have likely missed the islands completely and eventually plunged into the Pacific.

In 1930, two eighty-foot skeletal steel towers were added to the point, and the Kilauea radio beacon commenced operating in synchronization with one at Makapu`u Point on Oahu. A generating plant was added to the station to provide electricity for the 200-watt radio beacon, and soon thereafter the lighthouse was electrified.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Kilauea Point Lighthouse was darkened for the duration of World War II. In 1974, the lighthouse became part of the Coast Guard's Lighthouse Automation and Modernization Program (LAMP). While preparing the station for automation, complications arose with the mercury flotation system, necessitating the removal of the mercury. With the revolving lens now crippled, a modern rotating beacon was established on a 10-foot pole seaward of the tower and activated in February of 1976. The original tower, though inactive, retained its priceless clamshell lens and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 18, 1979.

Kilauea Point and its lighthouse became part of the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, when it was established in 1985, and today there are more bird-watchers than lighthouse enthusiasts who visit the area. Even if you aren't an expert on birds, it is thrilling to watch the Great Frigatebird and Laysan Albatross, with their large wingspans, soaring above the lighthouse. If you are lucky, you might even spot a Nene, an endangered Hawaiian goose, roaming the grounds.

In April of 2009, a campaign to raise $1 million to restore the Kilauea Lighthouse was kicked off with a ceremony that included a Hawaiian chant and the relighting of the dormant beacon. On hand for the event were U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye and State Representative Hermina Morita. In 2012, McMillen, LLC was awarded the phase II construction contract for restoring the lighthouse. As part of this work, closed vents and windows were opened, new windows, corbels and doors were installed, and the tower's exterior coating was restored to its historical appearance. The work was completed in time for the May 2013 centennial celebration for the lighthouse. As part of the celebration, the lighthouse was renamed the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse in honor of the long-serving senator who passed away in December 2012.

Head Keepers: Harry W. Flint (1913 1915), Samuel Apollo Amalu (1915 1924), Harry W. Flint (1925 1931), James M. Keanu (1932 1936), Fred E. Robins, Sr. (1936 1940), Samuel Anderson (1940 1942), Stanley Huntington (1949 1954), David Kahaunaele (1957 1958).

Photo Gallery: 1 2 3 4 5 6

References

  1. The Lighthouses of Hawai`i, Love Dean, 1986.
  2. "Kilauea Point Landfall Beacon On the Orient Run," Ross Aikin, The Keeper's Log, Summer 1989.

Location: Located on Kilauea Point in the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, the northernmost point of any inhabited Hawaiian Island.
Latitude: 22.23163
Longitude: -159.40201

For a larger map of Kilauea Point Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: Follow Highway 56 to the northern shore of Kaua`i and the town of Kilauea. In Kilauea, turn right onto Kolo Road and then take a quick left onto Kilauea Road which leads to the lighthouse.

The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can be reached at (808) 828-1413. The Kilauea Point National History Association has been formed to support the refuge and has set up a fund to restore the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and is part of the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Grounds open, dwellings/tower closed.

Find the closest hotels to Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Notes from a friend:

Kraig writes:
After a visit to Kilauea Point, be sure to continue west around the northern coast of Kaua`i to where the road ends at the Na Pali Coast. Even if you only have an hour, a quick hike along part of the Na Pali Coast trail is time well spent. The northern coast of Kaua'i has some of the most lush and breathtaking scenery I have ever encountered, making it my favorite island in the Hawaiian chain.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse can be seen in the 2011 movie Soul Surfer.

Marilyn writes:
This is one of my absolute favorite lighthouses. The beauty of the island and the coastline scenery makes this an incredible place to visit. Definitely a destination vacation spot.

See our List of Lighthouses in Hawaii

The lighthouses The Maps Our friends Lighthouse Resources Lighthouse Events Lighthouse Store Lighthouse Posters
Copyright © 2001- Lighthousefriends.com
Send us an e-mail - please note that lighthousefriends.com is not affiliated with any lighthouse

Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, Stephen Smith, used by permission.