Target Birds: Laysan Albatross (Oct-July), Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Mar-Sept), White-tailed Tropicbird (uncommon), Erckle’s Francolin, and Northern Mockingbird.
Kaena Point State Park is the western most point of Oahu. It is home to the only easily accessible Laysan Albatross colony on the island as well as a colony of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. The point itself is enclosed by a “mammal free” fence which has helped to protect the nesting seabirds. Along with close encouters with albatross, the point is a great place to whale watch during the winter months and the most reliable spot on the island for the endangered Monk Seal.
The state park can be accessed from both the north and the south. These directions are for the trail accessed from the north. To reach the trailhead, take the H2 north and continue on Route 803 towards Waialua. At a small roundabout, take the second exit towards Waialua and Dillingham Airfield. Continue on this road (Hwy 930) for 7.5 miles (passing the airfield on your left) until it ends at a parking lot and gate. The dirt road beyond the gate is the start of the trail for Kaena Point. The trail is an old, rutted, and sometimes muddy dirt road and runs for 2.5 miles until it terminates at a group of boulders and metal fence. Climb through the fence and the entrance to the enclosure is only 50 yards further. Enter the colony through the sliding gate making sure it properly closes behind you. The trail leads out to the point with a small loop trail circling part of the albatross colony.
Along the hike to the point you will encounter numerous introduced species. Along with the common birds, both Gray and Erckle’s Francolins can be encountered. Grays will commonly be seen or flushed near the dirt road while the Erckles are usually heard calling from the rocky outcrops on your left. A careful scan of the boulders will usually reveal an Erckle’s Francolin or two. As you reach the end of the trail, before the enclosure, make sure to keep an eye on the cliffs as there is a possibility of spotting White-tailed Tropicbirds (uncommon) flying around high near the tops of the cliffs.
Once inside the enclosure, Laysan Albatrosses and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters can be closely observed. The albatross begin to return in late October and by mid November are commonly seen displaying in small groups. Their single eggs usually hatch by late winter and chicks can be observed throughout the summer. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters start to arrive by late winter (March) and can be seen flying around and near their burrows until early fall. My opinion on the best time to visit is late spring as numerous adult and chick albatross can be observed and shearwater breeding is in full swing.
The point is also a very reliable spot for Northern Mockingbird. Although not usually high on the priority lists of many birders, this is easily the best spot on the island for this species.
Kaena Point is also known for being the only reliable place to see the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal on Oahu. Usually 1-5 seals can be observed at the end of the point. Make sure to scan carefully as it is very easy to mistake a seal for a rock. Please be respectful and keep a safe distance from these endangered animals.