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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Big Island - Kilauea
Hawaii
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
68-690 Waikoloa Rd.
Waikoloa, HI 96738
Summary

Every year since 1996, Frommer's Hawaii has called Blue Hawaiian, "The Cadillac of helicopter tour companies"—featuring the 21st-Century "ECO-Star" helicopter, superlative tours, award-winning customer service, and the world's finest pilots. Departures from Hilo Int'l Airport & Waikoloa Heliport.

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Dole plantation
Oahu
Oahu Outdoor Guides
Summary

Discover Oahu with Oahu Outdoor Guides - Tour the most popular Hawaiian Island with the Oahu Circle Island Small Group Tour. This must-do tour covers most of the popular highlights of the island (besides Pearl Harbor separate tour) and adds some less visited gems along the tour.

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Okinawan Festival at Hawaii Convention Center
Oahu
Okinawan Festival
Hawaii Convention Center
1801 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

"Sharing Uchinanchu Aloha!" Attracting more than 50,000 visitors annually, the Okinawan Festival has become the premiere annual event of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association. Proceeds from the Festival support the HUOA's mission of preserving, promoting and perpetuating the Okinawan culture.

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Fireknife Trio
Maui
Drums of the Pacific Luau
200 Nohea Kai Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Experience Polynesian culture at the Drums of the Pacific Luau located at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Enjoy song and dance from the islands of Polynesia, including an all-you-can-eat buffet with traditional island fare, authentic imu ceremony, and three-man Samoan fire-knife dance, all oceanside.

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LeaLea Trolley
Oahu
LeaLea Trolley
Summary

Unlimited Rides on 10 Trolley Lines 1Day Pass $29, 7Day Pass $49! The best value in town! Hop-on/hop-off Trolley in Waikiki and Honolulu. Covers wide area from Waikiki, Ala Moana, to Diamond Head, Kahala, KCC Farmer's Market, Ward, Kakaako, Downtown, Pier 38 and Bishop Museum. Enjoy relaxing ride!

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Huki5
Oahu
HUKI: A Canoe Celebration
55-370 Kamehameha Hwy.
Laie, HI 96762
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Come experience our canoe presentation sure to both inspire and entertain. Our colorful midday production explodes with Polynesian spirit, stories, and fun depicting the allure and adventure of ocean life through ancient myths and customs, inspiring local history, and favorite island songs.

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Maui Wedding Packages
Maui
Simple Maui Wedding
1787 Wili Pa Loop #3A
Wailuku, HI 96793
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Simple Maui Wedding provides Maui wedding packages focused on the highest quality wedding professionals on Maui. Our floral is artfully hand crafted, our ministers perform heart felt ceremonies and our renowned photographers capture the feelings and beauty of the day exquisitely.

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