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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Diamond Head Deck
Oahu
Sky Waikiki
2270 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Hawaii’s premier RoofTop Bistro, Lounge and Nightclub, located 19 stories above the heart of Waikiki. Enjoy breath-taking views of Oahu’s picturesque sunsets & the clear blue waters of the Pacific Ocean on a wrap around lanai. Indulge in a signature cocktail, tapas menu, and live music.

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UTVs
Lanai
Lanai Adventure Center
Summary

Experience Lanai by Four Seasons and explore your own 90,000 acres island. Enjoy breath taking views of Lana'i's uplands and embrace its cultural and historical offerings through a 2-hour guided UTV tour. Ride horseback and discover untouched Hawaii on the one-of-a-kind island. Tours daily.

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Maka Koa Dive Boat
Maui
Maui Dive Shop
1455 S. Kihei Road
Kihei, HI 96753
Summary

Maui's Leading Snorkel & Dive Center offering dive gear rentals, sales, instruction & beach wear, Maka Koa, our 48' custom dive boat, offers dives to Molokini, Back Wall, Cathedrals, & Wreck Dives. Maka Koa offers a full breakfast & deli lunch. Free Transportation provided south & west Maui.

Websites
Rainbows
Hawaii
Paniolo Adventures
Mile 13.2, Kohala Mountain Road (Highway 250)
Kohala, HI 96743
Summary

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.

Websites
Waikiki Aquarium Logo
Oahu
The Waikiki Aquarium
2777 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Admission prices: $12 Adults, $5 Children (4-12), FREE Children 3 & under, $8 Kamaaina, $8 Active Duty Military, $5 Seniors(65+), $5 persons with disabilities, FREE Fowa Members. 2019 marks the 115th anniversary of the aquarium making the Waikiki Aquarium the 2nd oldest in the United States

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Adventure Boat
Oahu
The Adventure Boat
1651 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Escape the crowds and join us on private cruise you won’t soon forget. Go faster and farther than anyone else in town on a private charter for spectacular coastal sightseeing tours, incredible sea life (turtles, fish, dolphins, and whales—in season), and snorkeling. The adventure is up to you!

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Maui Boat Trips
Maui
Maui Boat Trips
101 Maalaea Boat Harbor Rd
Slip #68
Wailuku, HI 96793
Summary

Leilani is a custom crafted 50-foot Uniflite Power Vessel. Specially designed for Hawaii's oceans, she offers comfortable and spacious accommodations with a sheltered main cabin, excellent airflow, an observation deck, a large swim platform, a private restroom, and a freshwater shower.

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Hawaii
Kahakai Bar
1 North Kaniku Drive
Kohala Coast, HI 96743
Summary

Kahakai means beach in Hawaiian, and this thatched-roof bar is loads of fun and just steps from The Fairmont Orchid's beautiful white sand beach. Order at the bar, or from a server who will bring drinks and pupus to your cabana.

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Oahu
Mai Tai Bar
2259 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Located steps away from the beautiful sands of Waikiki Beach, the oceanfront Mai Tai Bar is an ideal setting for enjoying the Waikiki scene while sipping on your favorite umbrella drink and snacking on delicious appetizers.

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