There are a number of historic lighthouses in Hawaii that you might want to visit on your next trip. In addition to their historic value, many of them offer commanding views of the Pacific Ocean. They also offer great opportunities to view a wide range of marine wildlife. And best of all, you can see and experience them for little or no cost.
The Kilauea Lighthouse was built in 1913 on the northern part of Kauai. The facility is unique in that it is the only lighthouse in Hawaii open to visitors. The Kilauea lighthouse was famous during World War II for offering radio beacon signals to aviators. This was especially important to pilots veering off course while trying to land.
It no longer serves as a lighthouse. But since 1985, it has become the focal point of the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition to scenic ocean vistas, you can see a wide range of marine wildlife. Here, there are seabirds, like the Laysan albatross and wedged-tailed shearwater. There are also marine mammals, such as the green sea turtle and humpback whale. You might have seen the Kilauea Lighthouse in Disney’s popular animated movie, Lilo and Stitch. As such, it might be one of the most popular historic lighthouses in Hawaii.
This lighthouse, the tallest in the State of Hawaii, was completed in 1909. Its construction was a response to the increasing amount of maritime traffic in the Kaiwi Channel. This channel separated the islands of Oahu and Molokai. Kalaupapa was an ideal location for the lighthouse because it was on a long peninsula extending two miles into the sea. But Kalaupapa was also the quarantine home for those in Hawaii with Hansen’s disease or leprosy. Initially, lawmakers were reluctant to build a strategically important navigational aid here. This was because they were concerned about station personnel being in close proximity with those with once incurable Hansen’s disease.
At 138 feet tall, the Kalaupapa Lighthouse is not only the tallest lighthouse in Hawaii. But it is also one of the tallest ones in the Pacific. Today, the lighthouse and the nearby settlement, still home to those once afflicted with the now curable Hansen disease, are part of the Kalaupapa National Historic District, which the National Park Service manages.
The Coast Guard built the Makapu’u Lighthouse on the eastern tip of Oahu in 1909 for the same reason as Kalaupapa Lighthouse. It was a critical navigational aid that responded to the increasing amount of ships sailing though the treacherous Kaiwi Channel. The lighthouse was once the only one of its kind in the US with the hyperradiant Fresnel lens.
The Coast Guard declared the land around the lighthouse surplus and then transferred it to the State of Hawaii in 1987. Since then, the road to the lighthouse is now one of the most popular hiking trails in the State park system. The trail offers spectacular views of the surrounding coastline, migrating humpback whales and the Hawaiian sunrise.