Lehua Crater, Niihau
Lehua Crater is a small, crescent-shaped island only 0.7 miles (1.1 km) north of Niihau. The uninhabited, 284-acre (1.15 km²) island is a tuff cone that is part of the extinct Niihau volcano which formed around the same time as Kauai.
Lehua Island is a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary. As a sanctuary, many activities are prohibited on the island, but entry is not prohibited. Lehua provides a habitat for at least 16 native species bird species and over 25,000 pairs of sea birds. Rabbits were formerly a problem, being responsible for the destruction of the native vegetation on the island and suspected of eating bird eggs and baby birds during the dry season, which is the nesting season for most of the sea birds. In 2006, Hawaii’s Department of Land & Natural Resources took steps to eradicate the rabbits which have thus far been successful and in 2018 they where also able to eradicate rats.
When weather and wave conditions permit crossings from Kauai, Lehua is a noted destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. It is also well known for its unusual geological formation dubbed “the keyhole”. Located in one of the crescent’s narrow arms, this tall, thin notch cut reaches all the way through to the other side of the arm and makes for a terrific photo opportunity on our Niihau boat tour.
The lack of running water and rain on Lehua and Niihau keep the waters around Lehua super clean and clear. It is rare that visibility is less than 70 feet. If it is less, it is because of plankton and not silt so we’ll find an even greater number and variety of reef fish feeding at these times.
The United States Coast Guard maintains Lehua Rock Light on the highest point of the island, at a height of 704 feet (215 m). Holo Holo Charters is the only company to operate daily trips to the Napali Coast and Niihau at Lehua Crater. Voted best Kauai boat tour 3 years in a row.