In 1919, the Bureau of Lighthouses decided to place an unmanned acetylene light on Ka'ena Point. A site was selected, building materials were hauled in, and a concrete pyramidal tower was erected at a cost of $2,479.84. Due to its remoteness, the light frequently fell victim to vandalism. Between 1980 and 1985, the light was extinguished eleven times, as senseless people shot at the lens or stole the beacon’s batteries. In 1990, the concrete tower literally fell victim to erosion and was replaced by a light atop a metal pole.
In the 1980s, the Navy requested that the range of the Ka'ena Point Light be increased to assist submarines. Rather than install a more powerful light on the beach, the old Ka'ena Point Light was renamed the Ka'ena Point Passing Light, and a navigational light was activated atop a building at the Ka'ena Point Tracking Station on the bluffs behind the point. This new location for the Ka'ena Point Light was selected due to the commercial power and security available at the tracking station. The new light has a focal plane of 931 feet and a range of twenty-five miles.
The Ka'ena Point Natural Reserve Area was created in 1983 to help protect the fragile dunes and native species on the point. Making the area immediately around the point off-limits to dogs and vehicles has helped restore the natural landscape and elevate the number of nesting Laysan albatross and wedge-tailed shearwaters.