The Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is a 691-acre bird sanctuary that attracts over 6,000 birdwatchers, artists, photographers, and environmental activists every year. Native waterbirds live here year-round, and migratory birds swoop in to visit from August to April. The Refuge is home to 30 species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and migratory ducks. The ʻaukuʻu (black-crowned night heron), the endangered āeʻo (Hawaiian stilt) and ʻalae kea (Hawaiian coot) are common sights inside the Refuge.
Most birders and hikers start from the boardwalk and headquarters off Mokulele Hwy (Hwy 311) at the 6-mile marker, approximately a mile north of the town of Kihei. There is a small welcome center available to visitors. Numerous signs along the boardwalk explain the wildlife, and help visitors name the different types of birds they have seen.
The Refuge is open to the public Mondays to Fridays (excluding Federal holidays), 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. but the Refuge does conduct regular bird censuses on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month. On these days, walking trails do not open until after 9:00 a.m.
The Hawaiian Coot, Hawaiian Stilt, and Hawaiian Gallinule are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and by the state of Hawaii. Some areas may be closed to the public during Hawaiian coot and Hawaiian stilt nesting seasons (usually the late winter through the spring). We recommend you call ahead at (808) 875-1582 to confirm the Refuge will be open.
Kealia means ‘salt-encrusted place’. In the winter rainy season, Kealia Pond can grow to 400 acres. In summer it shrinks to half that size, creating a glittering rim of salt.
The Refuge does not provide much shade, so come prepared with sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and plenty of water. The sun and wind are not as strong in the morning. Bring a towel and swimsuit if you want to take a swim in the ocean at Sugar Beach (Ma'alaea Bay) after hiking the boardwalk. Please note, dogs and drones are not allowed in the Refuge.