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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).
Designed in the style of an 1880's Hawaiian village. Palm thatched roofs, rustic bungalows and paths lie amidst flower and fruit bearing trees, palms and tropical vegetation. It is an easy walk or drive to Kailua-Kona Village, ocean activities and exciting night life.
Located ocean front on historic Banyan Drive in Hilo, Hula Hulas offers a creative twist on Hawaii cuisine. Sourcing from local farmers, fisherman, bow hunters and food artisans, Hula Hulas is Hawaii's best gathering spot for local cuisine, craft beers and cocktails, and live Hawaiian entertainment.
Unique location overlooking Kamuela town, has an expansive view of the vocanoes Mauna Kea & Mauna Loa. A breathtaking view of the Kohala Coast & Pacific ocean. 15 minutes from best beaches. Next to Parker Ranch. Walking distance to shops and restaurants.
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A luxury boutique Guesthouse in Captain Cook, South Kona on Hawaii Island, at the historic former home of artist and historian Herb Kawainui Kane. Situated on a 16-acre avocado farm with views from Kealakekua Bay to Honaunau.
Nestled among pristine fairways and lava rock fields within the tropical haven of Waikoloa on Hawaii’s Big Island. Spacious two-bedroom suites exude comfort and style with all the conveniences of home.
Hilo's premier, full service hotel on the shores of Big Island's Hilo Bay. Outstanding views of the ocean or quaint Hilo town, authentic Hawaiian charm and aloha spirit embraces you! Resort features a restaurant, lounge, WiFi, swimming pool, meeting/banquet facilities. (FEMA & TLA Approved)