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Hawaii: On Kauai, a luminous beauty

April 18, 2012|By Russ Parsons | Los Angeles Times Food editor
  • The view from Kilauea Lighhouse on Kauai.
The view from Kilauea Lighhouse on Kauai. (Kathy Parsons / Special…)

The tiny island of Kauai is full of beautiful spots – the mountains above Hanalei, the taro fields between there and Princeville, just about any beach you can name – but my favorite spot may be Kilauea Lighthouse.

Jutting out into the Pacific on the verdant northeastern side of the island, the 1913 lighthouse boasts one of the largest clamshell Fresnel lenses ever made – 4 tons of illuminated fun.

But that’s important only for true lighthouse geeks. The site’s real lure is natural. It is, after all, right beside a National Wildlife Refuge. Look out to sea and in the winter and spring the water is full of gamboling humpback whales. The lighthouse is set atop steep volcanic cliffs, and the waves break spectacularly against them.

Maybe most impressive is the number and assortment of sea birds that have made the place their home. Red-footed and brown boobies, several types of albatross, enormous frigate birds, and red- and white-tailed tropic birds that look kind of like gulls with slim, brightly colored tails. The islands just off the point have been dotted with artificial tunnels to attract rare shearwaters, which nest underground.

My favorite, though, is the Wrong-Way Corrigan of birds – the nene, or Hawaiian goose. It’s an evolutionary descendant of the Canada goose, several of which must have gotten lost on their migration about half a million years ago.

On the Big Island and on Maui there are gigantic varieties of nene, measuring as much as 4 feet tall. But those are scarce so you’ll rarely see them (outside of road signs that caution you to drive slowly in areas where they, supposedly, live). At Kilauea, though the nene are smaller (a little bigger than a football), they are thick on the ground. Though they can fly in theory, they spend their days wandering the area, digging for bugs and enjoying the view.

Info: Kilauea Lighthouse, Kilauea Road, Kilauea, North Kauai, (808) 828-0384.

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