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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Hawaii Forest & Trail Oahu
Oahu
Hawaii Forest & Trail
Summary

Let Hawaii Forest & Trail show you an authentic Oahu, utilizing our unparalleled land access and interpretive guiding approach to provoke authentic place-based experiences that illuminate the island’s unique regions through in-depth interactions with our nature and culture. Our Hawaii Oahu tours offer a different perspective.

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Oahu - Magnum Landing
Oahu
Paradise Helicopters
73-341 U'u St
Kailua-Kona, HI 96745
Summary

If you can dream it, we can do it. Paradise Helicopters offers you the opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime while here in the islands. See volcanoes, waterfalls & more on our helicopter tours, exclusive landings and custom charters departing from Kona, Hilo and Turtle Bay Resort.

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Kimo's
Maui
Kimo's
845 Front Street
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Historic landmark restaurant located on the water in Lahaina. Famous for fresh fish steaks and local fare. There's only one Kimo's!

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Restaurant
Maui
Japengo Maui
200 Nohea Kai Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Serving up world-class steaks, seafood and sushi, Japengo at Hyatt Regency Maui provides Hawaii’s freshest, locally-grown products and exotic Pacific Rim cuisine. Enjoy Japengo’s indoor and outdoor seating overlooking Ka’anapali Beach, or watch as sushi is rolled to order in the chic Sushi Lounge. 

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The Dining Room at Lahaina Grill
Maui
Lahaina Grill
127 Lahainaluna Rd.
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Lahaina Grill features cuisine using techniques and flavors from around the world with the freshest ingredients from Maui’s local farms, dairies and surrounding waters. Voted Top 10 fine dining restaurants in U.S. for 2018 by TripAdvisor and Best Maui Restaurant for 26 years in a row. (1994-2019).

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Maui waterfall
Maui
Maui Hiking Safaris
26 Makani Road
Makawao, HI 96768
Summary

Affordable guided half and full-day hikes. The hikes range from easy to strenuous. Localities include rain forests, waterfalls, valleys and mountain. A narrative on Hawaiian history, volcanology and flora is given. Day packs, water and meal provided. VOTED EXCELLENT ON TRIPADVISOR FOR 2019 !

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Haleakala - Maui
Multi-Island
Sunshine Helicopters
1 Kahului Airport Road - Hangar 107
Kahului, HI 96732
Summary

Sunshine Helicopters offers helicopter tours of Maui, Molokai, Big Island Hawaii and Kauai. With over 90% of the State of Hawaii accessible only by air, enjoy a helicopter ride and soar with us in the blue skies above the Hawaiian Islands aboard our state-of-the-art helicopters.

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New Waikiki Sunset Cruise! 'Ocean and You'
Oahu
Ocean and You
307 Lewers Street
Suite 401
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Take in the glow of Diamond head at golden hour and the magic of the Honolulu city lights from an all-new luxury powerboat! Ocean and You is the premier Oahu experience for an intimate and upscale sunset dinner cruise.

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