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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).
Haleakala Bike Company Inc now does business as Bike Maui, Cruiser Phil Volcano Riders, and Haleakala Ecotours. We offer seven different tours for biking down the volcano. Bike Maui offers the "Self-Guided" tours and Cruiser Phil's offers the "Guided" tours.
Explore Maui Nui’s ocean environment with the experts at Pacific Whale Foundation through PacWhale Eco-Adventures top-rated Whalewatches, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lanai and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises.
Immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of Hawaii’s marine life at Maui Ocean Center, The Aquarium of Hawaii. Encounter schooling reef fish, sharks, stingrays, turtles, and experience the world's first virtual encounter with Hawaii's humpback whales in the Humpbacks of Hawaii Exhibit & 3D Sphere.
From intimate to extravagant, barefoot sunset ceremonies on the beach to grand receptions with regal ambience, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel helps make every dream wedding or celebration day on Hawaii Island reality with the timeless magic of Mauna Kea.
Perched high atop the lush, emerald cliffs that line Kauai's North Shore, this rejuvenating retreat is the perfect place to savor refreshing Pacific breezes while gazing at the sparkling ocean that lingers beyond the island's breathtaking bluffs.
Beachfront resort on ten landscaped acres next to the scenic Wailua River. Newly renovated rooms and one-bedroom cottages, a variety of on-site dining options and Kauai’s only protected swimming beach. Great central location from which to explore.
Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa's 2016 renovation features contemporary redesigned guest rooms and new spaces for mingling. The resort offers a Mandara Spa, infinity pools, ocean view dining and calm beach, all located a short stroll from destination shopping and dining.
Located in the hip new Kauai Shores Hotel in Kapa'a on the Coconut Coast of beautiful Kauai. Lava Lava Beach Club is what you come to Hawaii for. Come get some sand between your toes! Creative cocktails, casual laid-back fare, delicious entrees on the beach with live musicians entertaining nightly.