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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).
Poolside dining and ice cream soda fountain. Complete breakfasts, lunch includes soups, salads, and traditional favorites.
Plantation Cuisine inspired by Hawaii's past.
Nationally renowned for classic steak house cuisine, featuring US Prime steaks, premium seafood & delectable vegetable menu items. The Ruth's Chris experience includes superior service & excellent wine selections. Voted "Best Steak House" on the Islands.
Enjoy casual sports bar-style dining with scrumptious fare such as delicious burgers, sandwiches and salads. It is the perfect place to catch live telecast of your favorite sports and unwind outdoors, amidst magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean and stunning sunsets. Happy Hour offered daily.
Ko offers cuisine reflective of the many cultures of Hawaii's sugarcane plantation era. The menu is inspired by the rich history and culinary traditions of Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese cultures.
Discover Makahiki — The Bounty of the Islands, offering both a buffet and à la carte options that feature fresh ingredients and international flavors, served in a festive, open-air dining room.
Norio's Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar is located alongside The Orchid Court breakfast restaurant on the garden level. The 60-seat restaurant features a 14-seat sushi bar and an 18-seat private dining room overlooking a serene koi pond.