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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).
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Copper Bar is a place to gather with friends and family to enjoy creative, casual cuisine based on abundance and sharing along with crafted cocktails, beers and wine. Of course, the centerpiece was and remains sweeping views of Kauna'oa Bay that have beckoned travelers for decades.
This award-winning, beachfront restaurant is open daily for breakfast & dinner. Serving lavish buffets, as well as savory entrees, Honu's on the Beach offers island-inspired cuisine & farm-to-table goodness. Enjoy its ocean view dining room or spacious lanai, complete with fire pits & scenic views.
The open-air Don the Beachcomber signature restaurant located at the Royal Kona Resort features a prime oceanfront setting with spectacular sunset views. Choose from succulent Pacific Fusion, Prime Rib and seafood specialties.
Papa Kona Restaurant & Bar is a waterfront restaurant in Kailua-Kona, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We focus on island-inspired delicious dishes and craft cocktails featuring fresh and local ingredients.
18 hole Robert Trent Jones Jr. Golf Course. Prepare yourself for an unparalleled golfing experience. Our course is a pleasure for golfers of any skill level to play. Open 364 days of the year. Wide, forgiving landing areas. Breathtaking scenery with views of five volcanoes and the Kohala coast.
This barista bar has everything from 100-percent Kona Coffee to morning lattes and elevated grab and go selections. In the afternoon and evenings, Piko Coffee+Bar is the place to connect, lounge or relax with an island beverage while enjoying panoramic resort views.
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.
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Enjoy time out of the sunshine relaxing oceanside at Hau Tree. Enjoy lunch and Mauna Kea's famous and refreshing Ovaltine Froth. Catch sunset at the Gazebo Bar with our signature drink, the Fredrico, in hand. Join us Saturdays for the Mauna Kea Clambake.