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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Kauai
Kipu Ranch Adventures
235 Kipu Road
Lihue, HI 96766
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Kipu Ranch Adventures, located on the lush island of Kauai, is proud to be one of the top eco-tours in Hawaii. We enable visitors and residents alike to discover the rich history, landscape and legends that make Kauai activities unique. Come out and join us for a tropical 4x4 off road adventure.

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Costco Travel
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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.

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Lanai
Lanai Adventure Center
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Experience Lanai by Four Seasons and explore your own 90,000 acres island. Enjoy breath taking views of Lana'i's uplands and embrace its cultural and historical offerings through a 2-hour guided UTV tour. Ride horseback and discover untouched Hawaii on the one-of-a-kind island. Tours daily.

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Oahu
Island Insurance
1022 Bethel Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
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Island Insurance has been serving families and businesses across Hawaii for over 70 years. Guided by its founding philosophy of providing affordable insurance options for the people of Hawaii, its grown into Hawaii's largest locally owned and managed property and casualty insurance company.

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Oahu
Currency Exchange International
98-1005 Moanalua Road
Level 2 - Between Journeys and Pac Sun
Aiea, HI 96701
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CXI specializes in providing foreign currency exchange at a great rate and with superior customer service. Our services include exchanging foreign currency banknotes, exchanging U.S. and foreign traveler’s cheques. CXI offers a variety of major currencies on demand for immediate availability.

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