HNWR Viewpoint

Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge Viewpoint

With much anticipation, the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge Viewpoint is now open! Located just south of the Princeville Resort entrance, this new lookout will replace the smaller one north of the Princeville Shopping Center, on the north shore of Kauai.

Hanalei Valley

The Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1972 under the Endangered Species Conversation Act to conserve endangered and threatened species. It incorporates the flat, river valley of Hanalei fringed with steep forested hillsides. The winding Hanalei River, which is the only American Heritage River in Hawaii, flows 15.7 miles from Mount Wai’ale’ale to the Pacific Ocean dropping 3,500 feet, and runs right through the refuge. The whole area provides critical nesting, feeding, and resting habitats for endemic and migratory birds.

From the two viewpoints, one may look over the vast expanse of the refuge area as well as the magnificent Hanalei Bay. Directly below, in the valley, are taro (kalo in Hawaiian) fields which not only provide a protected wetland for the birds, but also produce 40% of the State’s taro production. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the refuge wetland units and has made cooperative agreements with the taro farmers to help preserve the important cultural tradition of kalo cultivation.

Taro (Kalo) Fields

The Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge Viewpoint has a 25 car parking lot with restrooms. After parking, walk to the large kiosk standing between the two viewpoint paths. Here you will find much information about the history and purpose of the Refuge.

Hanalei Viewpoint

Most of the Refuge is closed to the public in order to limit the disturbance to the birds they are trying to protect. The Refuge focuses on five threatened and endangered native Hawaiian species of waterbirds, all of which have populations of only several thousand individuals. These birds are the AE’O (Hawaiian Stilt), the ‘ALAE ‘ULA (Hawaiian Common Gallinules), the KOLOA MAOLI (Hawaiian Duck), the ‘ALAE KE ‘OKE ‘O (Hawaiian Coot), and the Nene (Hawaiian Goose).

Some of you might be surprised to find that the nene (our State bird) is on the list. If you have driven around Princeville it will definately make you wonder. In the late 1940s, however, the nene population fell to fewer than 50 birds. In 1949 conservationists established a captive breeding program and reintroduced the nene back into protected areas within their native range. Of all the Hawaiian islands, Kauai now has the largest population of nene. They are still on the endangered species list because of their overall population numbers.

The Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Kauai National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which also includes Kilauea Point (home of the Kilauea Lighthouse). In addition to the five threatened waterbirds, the Refuge is home to over 40 species of migratory and resident birds who use the Refuge for various parts of their lifecycle throughout the year. Birders might spot the ‘AUKU’U (black-crowned night heron), the KOLOA MOHA (northen shovelers), or the PUEO (short-eared owls). The Refuge is also a corridor for ‘A’O (Newell’s shearwaters) and ‘UA’U (Hawaiian petrels), both rare and protected seabirds. Many birds migrate to Kauai in the winter from Alaska, Canada, and Siberia!

Although hard to spot, the only native land mammal found within the main Hawaiian Island chain, makes its home in the Refuge. The endangered OPE’APE”A (Hawaiian hoary bat) is also a resident.

Hanalei Valley

The two viewpoints give you a slightly different perspective of the Refuge with Hanalei Town and Hanalei Bay in the background. The mountains, Namolokama, Hihimanu, Mamalahoa, and Makana, make for the perfect backdrop to this spectacular region of the north shore of Kauai. Water (wai) is king in this area, as it is the most valuable element for life. The Hawaiians were very aware of this, as evidenced by the Hawaiian word for ‘wealth’ being waiwai.

Hanalei Lookout

The Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge Viewpoint is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Most days there are volunteers on-site to answer questions.

Hanalei Refuge Hours

For more information, go to Friends of Kauai Wildlife Refuges, or the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge website.

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