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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Reef Bar and Market
Oahu
Reef Bar and Market Grill
Summary

Located on iconic Waikiki Beach, the Reef Bar & Market Grill offers casual all-day dining modeled after authentic local island meat and fish markets. Guests select fresh “farm-to-beach” ingredients and grill their own steaks beachside in a one-of-a-kind interactive dining experience. The combination of locally sourced meats and seafood, farm-fresh produce and invigorating trade winds create an incomparable recipe for the perfect meal.

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Afternoon Tea
Oahu
The Veranda
5000 Kahala Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
Summary

The Veranda is the hottest spot for the trendy Honolulu crowd as well as hotel guests searching for the place to see and be seen. Overlooking the beach, with a stunning contemporary alfresco area, the Veranda is Honolulu’s living room of the stars.

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Restaurant
Maui
Umalu
200 Nohea Kai Dr
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

'Ūmalu offers casual cuisine poolside at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Choose from a variety of fresh salads and creative sandwiches throughout the day at our shaded restaurant or between the waterfalls at our Grotto Bar. Also enjoy our new dinner menu full of mouthwatering entrees, as late as midnight.

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Mamahunes 14
Kauai
Mamahune's
3-5920 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746
Summary

Mamahune’s is a retro-inspired tiki bar and restaurant that offers contemporary Hawaiian cuisine, handcrafted cocktails, and picturesque views of Kauai's Wailua Bay.

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Ahi Tataki Salad
Oahu
Pounders Restaurant
55-370 Kamehameha Highway Suite 1010
Laie, HI 96762
Summary

Pounders is a farm fresh island style restaurant serving fresh produce from island farms, Hawaii-raised grass-fed beef, locally caught seafood, savory delights from the Pacific Rim, and unique Hawaiian-style pizzas in their kiawe-fired brick oven imported from Napoli.

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Diamond Head Deck
Oahu
Sky Waikiki
2270 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Hawaii’s premier RoofTop Bistro, Lounge and Nightclub, located 19 stories above the heart of Waikiki. Enjoy breath-taking views of Oahu’s picturesque sunsets & the clear blue waters of the Pacific Ocean on a wrap around lanai. Indulge in a signature cocktail, tapas menu, and live music.

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Hula Hulas
Hawaii
Hula Hulas
93 Bayan Dr.
Hilo, HI 96720
Summary

Located ocean front on historic Banyan Drive in Hilo, Hula Hulas offers a creative twist on Hawaii cuisine. Sourcing from local farmers, fisherman, bow hunters and food artisans, Hula Hulas is Hawaii's best gathering spot for local cuisine, craft beers and cocktails, and live Hawaiian entertainment.

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Hinana Bar
Oahu
Hinana Bar
100 Holomoana St
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Refreshing beverages and a select casual dining menu let you relax and enjoy your time in the sun to the fullest. Lounge or plunge...our staff is on hand to help you make the most of your poolside experience.

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The Break
Lanai
The Break
Four Seasons Resort Lanai
One Manele Bay Road
Lanai City, HI 96763
Summary

This open-air bar offers Hawaiian coffee and light breakfast items, salads, sandwiches and housemade gelato at lunch. As the day winds down, gather for sharing plates, local beer, wine and craft cocktails or end the evening with nightcaps and dessert.

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