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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).
The Hawai‘i Wildlife Center (HWC) is a state-of-the-art native wildlife hospital and rehabilitation center. The facility features a science and discovery center and retail store. Science center admission is free. Donations are welcome. Public hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tasting Kauai invites residents and visitors on a culinary romp through paradise. Learn how to buy local through educational and fun events while connecting with Kauai’s culture, aloha, people and land. A portion of all book and tour sales are donated to the Hawaii Food Bank - Kauai Branch.
Hā: Breath of Life, is a stunning evening show featuring over 100 Polynesia performers, special effects, animation and surround sound. It is a story of passion, ignited by fire, song, and dance. This 90-minute, world-famous, award-winning show is a MUST see and truly an unforgettable experience.
Daily "open range" rides over 11,000-acre working cattle ranch on historic Kohala Mountain. Lush pasture, native woods and spectacular views of the coastline and peaks. Marvel at the ancient Hawaiian ruins where King Kamehameha once trained his warriors.
We are the leader in small group, private & custom tour experiences on Hawaii Island. Offering trips to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, bird watching, and circle island excursions. If you're looking for the best-personalized experience on Hawaii Island, book with us.
Makana Charters is the only Na Pali tour company offering personalized or private morning and afternoon tours on the Na Pali coast on your choice of three vessels - a 32 or 12 person catamaran, or an adventurous tour on our shaded raft. Explore the sea caves, get under waterfalls, and snorkel.
Explore some of the most beautiful spots on the island of Oahu, including a visit to Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, the Pali Lookout, Dole Plantation, famous North Shore beaches, the Hawaii Temple and more. The tour concludes with a memorable visit to the world-famous Polynesian Cultural Center