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Adult males range from 40 to 52 feet and can weigh up to 45 tons. Despite their size, humpback whales are graceful acrobats. Keep your eye on the ocean and you might see one breach, propelling up to 40 percent of its body out of the water and landing on its side with a spectacular splash.
Whales have great cultural significance for Native Hawaiians. They play a large role in Hawaiian legend—including one creation story—and appear in ancient petroglyphs on several islands. The return of the kohola (humpback whale) is considered more of a homecoming than a visit. Humpback whales are born in Hawaiian waters, making them kamaaina (native born). Some Native Hawaiians also believe the whales are aumakua (family guardians), so these gentle giants are treated with great respect.
Cultural Significance of Whales in Hawaii
Although humpback whales can be seen from all of the Hawaiian Islands, the shallow Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai and Lanai is one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world.
What's the Best Way to See Whales?
You may also spot kohola from the southern shores of Oahu, especially at Makapuu Lighthouse and along the seaside overlooks near Leahi (Diamond Head).
Kauai offers a range of whale-viewing opportunities, including Poipu Beach on the South Shore, Kilauea Lighthouse on the North Shore and Kapaa Overlook on the island’s Coconut Coast.
On the island of Hawaii, whales are often seen along the shores of the Kohala Coast, as well as Hilo Bay on the east side of the island. The Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site is another great viewing spot, with its sweeping, elevated views near Kawaihae Harbor. In fact, Puukohola literally means “hill of the whale” in Hawaiian.
Boat tours may be your best option for viewing whales up close. Hawaii has dozens of tour operators, including a few that lead kayak excursions—a thrilling way to experience these majestic mammals.
In respect for the kohola and the safety of sightseers, all watercraft must stay a minimum of 100 yards from the whales, but you'll be surprised how close you feel when a 45-ton behemoth lunges out of the sea. If a boat tour is not for you, the whales’ impressive acrobatic displays are often visible from miles away. If you're on land, keep a pair of binoculars handy because you never know when you'll see a humpback’s spout (which can be 10–20 feet tall).
Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels. It's like swimming in a giant aquarium, but staying dry the whole time!
Big Island's most complete boat and beach activity center. Join us for some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving on board our 50' catamaran "WINONA" or on one of our 2 dive boats. Daily sailings for snorkel and sunset cruises, as well as daily scuba diving.
Retail, wholesale supplier macadamia nuts, gift baskets, incentive, corporate gifts. Visitor Center, samples, free.
A Big Island travel guide written by people with a passion for Hawaii. We enable visitors to plan their own vacation in a sustainable way with minimum impact on the local environment. Visit our website for custom itineraries, activity information (DIY guides and tours), city guides, and much more.
Often acclaimed as the most beautiful area in Hawaii, this garden is a photographer’s and nature lover’s paradise. Featuring over 2,500 species of tropical plants from around the globe, an orchid garden, macaw aviary and oceanfront walk.
Come visit our honey & bee farm in Captain Cook! Take a beekeeping farm tour & join us as we open a beehive. Sample our organic honeys, all produced from rare blossoms found on the Big Island, and browse our store and museum full of honey, beeswax products and beekeeping memorabilia.
Since 1985, UFO Parasail has been bringing exciting ocean activities to the islands. UFO Parasail utilizes state-of-the-art winch boats to float you on and off the back of the boat for safe, dry landings.
With Kona Ocean Adventures we are not just another tour but a true adventure every time you step aboard our boats. Boutique outfit: Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, whale watching, sunset cruise, manta ray night snorkel and dive. You have come to the right place! Private charters are our specialty.
Original Hawaiian Chocolate - 100% Hawaiian cocoa beans grown, hand-picked, sun-dried on Hawaii Island in Kona. Non-blended to assure purity and quality. Enjoy the distinctive texture and taste of single-origin Original Hawaiian Chocolate. Tours available by reservation. Chocolate is Aloha!
Explore the Big Islands largest collection of Orchids. Over 1,000 on display in our Orchid Maze & for purchase. Join a behind the scenes Orchid Farm Tour and Tasting. Plant and take home your own baby orchid and leave room for dessert as you sample our Poha Ice Cream and shop our unique giftshop!