Where to See Wildlife Around Kauai


Aquatic mammals, fish, sea turtles, and migratory seabirds are just a few of the animals you can encounter on Kauai. From the humpback whale to the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and Hawaiian goose and beyond, the Garden Isle makes a rich spot for wildlife viewing. Whether you choose to join a tour or you make your own wildlife-watching opportunities, here are some of the top areas on the island to check out.

Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

The Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge has a mission to protect the threatened nēnē, or Hawaiian goose, and other migratory bird populations. This scenic spot perched on cliffs 180 feet above the ocean is a prime birding location, and it’s also an ideal lookout for whale watching during the main season from November to March. Be sure to make a reservation online before your visit.

Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge

As the oldest of Kauai’s wildlife refuges, Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge offers a wetland habitat for many endangered species. Through promoting the healthy functioning of wetland floodplains, the refuge provides a home for endangered Koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck), ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt), and ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot).

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Makauwahi Cave Reserve

How did non-native tortoises formerly raised as pets make it onto a list of wildlife-watching opportunities? The unfortunate extinction of the Hawaiian Moa-nalo Bird left a hole in the ecosystem that allowed invasive plants to flourish. But an experiment in rewilding has led to successful native plant rehabilitation on this 17-acre reserve. On a visit to the Makauwahi Cave Reserve, you can find your way to visit the tortoises and see the research they’re a part of aboveground while having an opportunity to learn more about the story told by the underground world.

Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve

The Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve is one of the wettest areas on the planet, and it offers up some of the largest intact ecosystems for many of the animal species that can only be found on the island. The forest includes the hard-to-access Alakai Wilderness Preserve.

You can’t venture into the preserve on a commercially guided trip, but this is not a hike for the inexperienced. This is a remote backcountry area where three critically endangered species may be found: the Puaiohi, Akikiki, and Akeke’e. If you’re used to hiking in difficult, wet terrain and you know your way around a tricky trail, a trip to this part of the island will be worth the trek for any persistent birder.

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Poipu Beach

If you’re dreaming of seeing a monk seal in person, head to Poʻipū Beach or the remote Nāpali coast, according to Makana Charters and Tours. If you’re lucky enough to come across one on the beach, enjoy the experience while keeping 150 feet between you and the seal. This endangered animal found only in Hawaii deserves respect, so don’t harass, poke, chase, feed, or disturb the seals. They’re especially sensitive when they’re feeding their young.

These guidelines go for all wildlife on the islands and beyond. By being a good steward and enjoying wildlife viewing while keeping critters safe, any casual observer can help support wildlife on Kauai.

Regenerative tourism helps to increase support for protecting the wild spaces around us, opening the way for the places we love to thrive far into the future. Whether your goal is to soak up the sun or explore on a search for wildlife on your vacation, Starry Night Lodging keeps sustainability in mind. Book your stay, and dive deeper into the natural world on Kauai.