Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii

Whale Watching

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Whale Watching in Hawaii

Just as our idyllic weather welcomes tourists from around the world, the warm and shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for kohola, or humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. They race more than 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii, then stay for a lengthy vacation, frolicking just off our shores and delighting spectators from December through May. 

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.   


Cultural Significance of Whales in Hawaii

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. 


What's the Best Way to See Whales?

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. 

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).

Whale Watching in Hawaii

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Clambake at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Hawaii
Clambake
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr
Kamuela, HI 96743
Summary

A remarkable beachside seafood buffet under the stars with sounds of the ocean's surf and contemporary Island music. Saturday evenings, offered seasonally, at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

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Volcano Village Lodge
Hawaii
Volcano Village Lodge
19-4183 Kawailehua Street
Volcano, HI 96785
Summary

Volcano Village Lodge offers private lodges in the Volcano, Hawaii rainforest - located 2 miles from the main entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Each lodge offers luxurious linens, top quality amenities, fireplace, and covered lanai. Rates from $280/night.

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Plantation View
Hawaii
Kona Lisa Coffee
83-5475 Painted Church Rd
Captain Cook, HI 96704
Summary

Kona Lisa is 100% Kona, Estate coffee. We hand pick, sun-dry, custom roast for a remarkably smooth cup. Stop by the farm, or visit us at the Kona Lisa Coffee & Tea Bar at neighboring Paleaku Gardens! Enjoy a cup of Kona Lisa while strolling through the scenic Peace Gardens in the heart of Kona!

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Ocean Suite
Hawaii
Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel
71 Banyan Drive
Hilo, HI 96720
Summary

Hilo's premier, full service hotel on the shores of Big Island's Hilo Bay. Outstanding views of the ocean or quaint Hilo town, authentic Hawaiian charm and aloha spirit embraces you! Resort features a restaurant, lounge, WiFi, swimming pool, meeting/banquet facilities. (FEMA & TLA Approved)

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Hualalai Estate
Hawaii
Cuvée’s Hualalai Estates
72-100 Kaupulehu Drive
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Cuvée owns and curates a collection of ultra-luxury villas & chalets in celebrated global destinations, including two private estates at the Four Seasons Hualalai. We create the world’s most elevated travel experiences by providing exceptionally tailored planning and singular, immersive experiences.

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Kayaking near Safari Explorer, Big Island - UnCruise Adventures
Multi-Island
UnCruise Adventures
3826 18th Ave. W.
Seattle, WA 98119
Summary

Island-hop to Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Hawaii by small boat cruise. Watch marine life; “talk story” with locals; and spend time at play—kayak, paddle board, hike, snorkel. It's all included in your fare. 36 guests; 7 nights; year-round departures. Unrushed. Uncrowded. Unbelievable.

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Manta at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Hawaii
Manta
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr
Kohala Coast, HI 96743-9706
Summary

Dinner at Manta is an occasion every night with a dynamic exhibition kitchen to showcase farm-fresh deliciousness with bold flavors to match stunning sunset and ocean views along with our 48-bottle wine selection via the Enomatic wine tasting experience.

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