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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Oahu
O Bar
2490 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

O Bar is a welcome destination for guests throughout the day. Overlooking our spectacular three-story Oceanarium, it’s an open, relaxed gathering place and one of the most distinctive Waikiki Beach bars.

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Oahu
Living Ocean Scuba
1125 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814
Summary

Daily Scuba Diving tours on Oahu, Hawaii. Scuba diving tours at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (no experience required) and boat diving charters from Waikiki. We offer two trips daily at Hanauma Bay. Dive charters from Waikiki-Shipwreck and Reef charter in the morning for certified divers.

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Hawaii
Dolphin Discoveries
Keauhou Bay
Keauhou, HI 96740
Summary

Snorkel/Dolphin and Whalewatch Adventures. Snorkel 2 sites, Cook's Monument at Kealakekua Bay and the Place of Refuge. View Sea Caves and Lava Tubes. Year round dolphin and whalewatching, guided by marine mammal naturalist. dolphindiscoveries.com

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Oahu
Kani Ka Pila Grille
2169 Kalia Road
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Kani Ka Pila Grille, located pool-side at the newly renovated Outrigger Reef on the Beach, serves lunch, dinner and tropical drinks daily, but its real draw is the top-notch live entertainment by some of Hawaii’s greatest island musicians, new local talent and island artists of international renown.

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Lanai
Malibu Farm
One Manele Road
Lanai City, HI 96763
Summary

Overlooking the sparkling pool with commanding views of the ocean, The Lounge is located in the lower lobby area and offers an unforgettable setting for guests to enjoy sunset cocktails and after dinner drinks and live entertainment.

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Oahu
Swell Bar
2490 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Swell Bar, located next to our stunning infinity pool, is an unrivaled destination with the best Happy Hour Honolulu offers. Sip cocktails by the pool, grab a seat at the bar or reserve one of our private cabanas for a half-day, full day or evening.

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