National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. There are over 560 NWRs across the nation, each one created for a special purpose. Keālia Pond NWR provides numerous recreation opportunities to thousands of visitors every year. More than 120,000 people visit the refuge each year to engage in various wildlife-oriented activities, including bird watching, photography, environmental education and interpretation, habitat restoration projects to remove , and outplanting with Hawai‘i’s native vegetation.
We invite you to come and discover nature right on the doorstep of the bustling Maui tourist hubs. With abundant wildlife, an ever-changing landscape, and ample opportunities for you to safely enjoy the outdoors, Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is truly a refuge for us all.
Keālia Pond NWR Headquarters Office and Refuge
- Open 7:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed on federal holidays.
- Open Monday 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., closed on federal holidays.
Keālia Coastal Boardwalk
- Open seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., including federal holidays.
There are a lot of great reasons to visit Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, including the friendly staff and volunteers… But as nice as we are, we'd be kidding ourselves if we didn't admit that the wildlife are the main attraction. This is, after all, their home, and we their visitors. There are a lot of things to do: view wildlife, head out on the trails, photograph nature, visit the visitor center, connect children with nature, educational and interpretive programs, and volunteer service projects.
The main wildlife-dependent activities at Keālia Pond NWR are wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education and interpretation. The refuge is a popular place for birdwatching, particularly when migratory birds are present from August to April.
It's never too early to begin a connection to nature that can provide a lifetime of benefits. Keālia Pond NWR is an excellent place to introduce children to nature for the first time or satisfy the urge to be outdoors for those kids who already appreciate nature's benefits.
Check out the programs below for kids of all experience levels, from the littlest Jr. Ranger to the naturalist-in-training. (Jr. Ranger program tab and kids activities tab)
- Wildlife Viewing
The refuge is popular for birdwatching not only for close-up glimpses of endangered ae‘o and ‘alae ke‘oke‘o, but for viewing the diversity of migratory birds that use the refuge during winter months. Shorebirds arrive in August and waterfowl begin increasing in September-October. This is an exciting time of year because infrequently seen birds show up and can become a challenge for even the seasoned birders. The Native Plant Pollinator Garden is located behind the Visitor Center and is a quiet location to observe the daily dance between plants and pollinators. Sit on a bench and watch nature or meander the path to see the plants in closer detail.
Refuge System interpretation programs provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world. From self-guided walks to ranger-led programs, many national wildlife refuges help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitat behind the landscapes.
In addition to staff and volunteers presenting programs to audiences, refuges use a variety of exhibits, signs, brochures, and electronic media to communicate natural history stories to visitors. Printed and virtual information is often available on many topics, including plants and animals, seasonal migrations, habitats, refuge management strategies, and endangered species. Check with the front desk for current program offerings.
- Environmental Education
National Wildlife Refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about wildlife and natural resources. Many refuges offer environmental education programs for a variety of audiences. Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor environments – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities. Thousands of youth and adult groups visit every year to learn about a specific topic on wildlife, habitat, or ecological processes.
Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of a particular ? Contact or visit the refuge to check on program availability and reservation policies. Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!
Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography. That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate. You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started. A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.
Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list. Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes. Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System. We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive!
Located on the south-central coast of Maui, the refuge is accessible from all directions. Visitor access to the Visitor Center, office, and main refuge walking trails is located at Milepost 6 on Maui Veterans Highway (Highway 311), about one mile north of the town of Kihei. Visitors can park in the visitor center parking lot to check in at the visitor center, get updates, and explore the interactive displays. Visitor wildlife viewing access is along the Kanuimanu Ponds levees which are flat and easy walking, and though a little bumpy, also accommodate wheelchairs. These Ponds were constructed in 1970 for an aquaculture venture (catfish) which ended in 1995. In 2005, the Fish and Wildlife restored the Keālia Ponds that are now managed for waterbirds and visitor access. Visitor can also access and view the unmodified Keālia Pond and wetlands.
Visitor Access to the Keālia Coastal Boardwalk is off North Kihei Highway between the town of Kihei and Mā‘alaea. A 14 stall parking lot is available seven days a week from sunrise to sunset, including federal holidays.
Rules and Policies
Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is a fantastic home for an abundant variety of wildlife who would love to have you as their guest. They just ask that you follow a few house rules. Refuge Hours: Gates open at 7:30am and are locked at 5pm. Visitor Center is open on Monday 12pm-3pm, Tuesday-Friday 9am-3pm. Closed all federal holidays. The Keālia Coastal Boardwalk opens at 6:00am and gates are locked at 7:00pm.The refuge can be enjoyed all year long.
Please remember the following are not permitted at the refuge: No pets, drones, collecting, handling wildlife, fires, camping, hunting, or fishing.
Prohibited Recreational Activities
Recreational activities such as bicycling, ball throwing, frisbees, jogging, and skateboarding are not wildlife-dependent and result in altering birds behavior from feeding or resting to avoidance. Even an activity as seemingly "quiet” as flying a kite is a disturbance as birds perceive the shape and motion as an avian predator and consume valuable energy in avoidance (fly away) or chase away if they are protecting nests and/or chicks. Pets are not allowed on the refuge for these same reasons. Nonwildlife dependent activities can be performed in the numerous county parks located along South Kīhei Road in Kīhei. Disturbing or removing plants, animals, rocks, fossils, or artifacts is prohibited.