Being a beautifully preserved island, it’s not surprising that thousands of wild animals settle and thrive in Kauai. The island’s untouched trails and open spaces provide geese, deers, and cattle a safe area to graze in. Kauai’s waters are just as pristine – allowing marine life to remain healthy and flourish.
When you come to Kauai, you’re sure to meet various island animals out in nature. Apart from species that are being protected from extinction, you’ll find wild animals in their natural habitat, free and well. No reason to be scared – as long as you go your way and let them be on theirs, these animals remain just as friendly as the sun in Kauai.
If you’re an animal lover planning a trip to the Garden Isle, we’ve compiled 5 of the best spots to meet the many animals that have built a home on the island. To ensure safety, this list will only include state parks and sanctuaries where the island animals are taken great care of and are available for interaction.
1. Na Pali Coast State Park
The Na Pali Coast is one of the most distinct and gorgeous coastlines in the world. Known for its rugged cliffs and crystal blue waters, it is a popular destination for boat cruises or aerial tours.
Because much of Na Pali has been preserved since Kauai’s olden days, you can also expect to encounter wild animals while cruising through this world-famous coastline. Water cruises, hikes, and helicopter rides double as animal-watching activities if you’re lucky to meet Kauai’s peace-loving creatures.
Booking a Na Pali Coast catamaran tour gives you a chance to catch a glimpse of incredible sea life, including whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and Kauai’s native monk seals. If you’re planning to explore Na Pali through one of its hike trails, you’re likely to spot feral animals along the way. These animals include goats, cattle, and deer that make their home on the island.
2. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
Apart from a beautiful overlooking point, the Kilauea Lighthouse also houses a seabird nesting habitat in its area. Called Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, the place serves as a nesting, foraging, and resting area for thousands of migratory birds and some of Kauai’s endangered species.
Some seabirds you can spot in Kilauea’s refuge include tropicbirds, wandering tattlers, and albatross. The red-footed booby, also known as Sula Sula, are Kilauea’s most visible seabird. You’ll find them nesting in tree shrubs, incubating their eggs by covering them with their large, webbed feet.
Migratory seabirds, such as the kolea, can be seen around the refuge from August through May. By the Kilauea Lighthouse’s overlooking point, you may also spot groups of spinner dolphins, humpback whales, and green turtles.
3. Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
Another national wildlife refuge on the island of Kauai is the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, which sits within the Hanalei River Valley along Kauai’s north shore. It was established in 1972 for the conservation of the island’s plants and animals, especially 5 of Hawaii’s endangered waterbirds.
The endangered waterbirds hosted in this refuge include the Hawaiian stilt, the Hawaiian coot, and the Hawaiian moorhen. The refuge is also the best place on the island to see Hawaiian ducks, which are very wary birds often found in pairs instead of large groups.
Sadly, Hawaiian ducks are listed as one of the endangered species that the Hanalei refuge aims to protect. Its population has been affected by habitat loss, diseases, and environmental contaminants. If you wish to help make a difference for these creatures, Kauai’s National Wildlife Refuge Complex welcomes volunteers for educating tourists and locals, as well as donations for funding their preservation efforts.
4. Turtle Cove
Located within a small bay on the Princeville side of Kauai, Turtle Cove is a hidden gem that allows you to get up close and personal with hundreds of turtles relaxing from the ocean. On a good day, you’ll find a bunch of these majestic creatures just walking around and feeding their little ones by the shore.
It’s quite a challenge getting to the area as it involves passing slippery rocks and holding on to ropes for support. However, finally spotting turtles large and small will be a very rewarding sight. We recommend wearing swim shoes and appropriate clothes when visiting the area.
Although these turtles come in big groups, it’s important to note that they are very sensitive and rare. Everyone is free to come and see them, but always remember the golden rule when out in nature: do no harm and leave the area in a better condition than when you came.
5. Kawaiele Waterbird Sanctuary
Last on this list is the Kawaiele Waterbird Sanctuary, which is a wetland habitat located on the west side of Kauai. This sanctuary was created in the 1990s to make a home for all four of Hawaii’s endemic waterbirds, much like the Hanalei refuge.
Hawaiian waterbirds are kept free and protected in this 1,700-acre historical wetland, where most of these birds lived prior to the 1900s. Biologists and workers of this sanctuary are focused on habit restoration and increasing the waterbirds’ population every year. Some good news you’ll love – the progress over the past four years has been the most significant for the team and they continue to make an impact in the protection of Hawaii’s waterbirds today.
Ready to Meet Kauai’s Friendly Creatures?
It’s so easy to witness Kauai’s wildlife, thanks to the island’s dedicated organizations, eco-oriented tours, and loving locals. It’s important to remember that the people of Kauai have worked hard to keep endemic creatures in their natural habitat. Visitors must find a way to enjoy the experience of meeting these animals without disturbing them.
No matter where you go or what creature you meet, remember to treat the island’s wildlife and surroundings with respect. It’s the key to keeping them around for future generations to see. Hob Osterlund, the founder of Kauai Albatross Network puts it so simply. “Although humans sometimes want to touch or get close to the critters, this impulse is often damaging to them. If you care about the animals, give them their space.”
5 Spots for Animal Watching in Kauai [Infographic]