There are a number of historic lighthouses in the Aloha State that you might want to visit on your next trip to Hawaii. In addition to their historic value, many of them offer commanding views of the Pacific Ocean as well as great opportunities to view a wide range of marine wildlife. And best of all, they can be seen and experienced for little or no cost.
Kilauea Lighthouse – The Kilauea Lighthouse was built in 1913 and is located on the northern part of the island of Kauai. The facility is unique in that it is the only lighthouse in the state of Hawaii that is opened to visitors. In addition to serving as a vital navigational aid to mariners, the Kilauea lighthouse was famous during World War II for offering radio beacon signals to aviators who had veered off course on their way to landing on one of Hawaii’s military airfields.
While it no longer serves as a lighthouse, since 1985 it has become the focal point of the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Here at the refuge, in addition to the scenic coastal vistas, you can see the marine wildlife such as seabirds, like the Laysan albatross and wedged-tailed shearwater, and marine mammals, such as the green sea turtle and humpback whale. The Kilauea Lighthouse was even depicted in several scenes in Disney’s popular animated movie, Lilo and Stitch.
Kalaupapa Lighthouse – This lighthouse, the tallest in the State of Hawaii, was completed in 1909 in response to the increasing amount of maritime traffic in the Kaiwi Channel which separated the islands of Oahu and Molokai. Kalaupapa was an ideal location for the lighthouse because it was located on a long peninsula that jutted out 2 miles into the sea from the north side of the island of Molokai. But Kalaupapa was also the isolated quarantine home for those in Hawaii who were afflicted with Hansen disease, then called leprosy. Initially, lawmakers were reluctant to build a strategically important navigational aid and to have personnel stationed nearby to those who were afflicted with the then incurable Hansen disease.
At 138 feet tall, the Kalaupapa Lighthouse is not only the tallest lighthouse in Hawaii, but it is also reputed to be the tallest one 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 is administered by the National Park Service.
Makapu’u Lighthouse – Makapu’u Lighthouse, located on the eastern tip of Oahu, was built in 1909 for the same reason as Kalaupapa Lighthouse, which was to provide an urgently needed navigational aid in response to the increasing amount of ships sailing though the sometimes treacherous Kaiwi Channel. The lighthouse is the only one its kind in the US that was outfitted with the then technologically advanced hyperradiant Fresnel lens and, back then, was the largest one of its kind ever built.
The land that surrounded the lighthouse was declared surplus by the Coast Guard and was transferred to the State of Hawaii in 1987. Since then, the road to the lighthouse has become one of the most popular hiking trails in the entire State of Hawaii park system. The trail offers spectacular views of the rugged surrounding coastline, seasonally migrating humpback whales and the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.