Scroll to Continue
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).
Immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of Hawaii’s marine life at Maui Ocean Center, The Aquarium of Hawaii. Encounter schooling reef fish, sharks, stingrays, turtles, and experience the world's first virtual encounter with Hawaii's humpback whales in the Humpbacks of Hawaii Exhibit & 3D Sphere.
Hawaii's premiere wedding service offers simple, beautiful, spiritual, non-denominational weddings or vow renewal ceremonies. With our friendly service, affordable prices, and flexibility, Rev. Rosemary will create the wedding of your dreams!
Gaylord’s offers one of Kauai’s most beautiful settings for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch. Our kitchen uses only the freshest, seasonal ingredients supporting our local farmers and fishermen. Our 67-acre sustainable farm provides much of the produce and herbs used in our dishes and cocktails.
Ala Moana Center, Hawaii's largest shopping center located in Honolulu just minutes from Waikiki, features more than 290 stores, including 80 dining options, over 40 luxury brands, and three department stores (Macy's, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom).
Fleetwood’s On Front St. is recognized for its award winning menus, sophisticated yet casual atmosphere, breathtaking ocean and mountain views, expansive wine list and ever popular happy hour, wine tasting and live entertainment.
Built in 1901, the Pioneer Inn captures the ambiance of old whaling days, with architecture that evokes the tranquil lifestyle of turn-of-the-century Lahaina. This charming, renovated hotel is located at the water's edge on historic Lahaina Harbor.
Experience a 1940’s era Hawaiian style charm with a modern twist at Villas By The Cove, a boutique vacation rental estate located steps to the beach in South Maui. Ideal for wedding groups, family reunions, retreats, the newly renovated property offers luxury accommodations for 58 guests.
Hoku's at The Kahala Hotel & Resort is heralded for its innovative fusion fare which melds Hawaiian, Asian, Mediterranean and European flavors. The restaurant’s twist on contemporary Island cuisine ensures that it is consistently ranked as one of Hawaii's best restaurants.