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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).
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.
Valley Isle Excursions takes you on one of the most breathtaking drives on earth down the road to Hana Maui. Spectacular cliffs, bamboo jungles, hawaiian waterfalls, tropical scenery and colorful fragrant flowers are part of our "Heavenly Hana" tour.
Honu is owned by Chef Mark & Judy Ellman, located on the rocks of Mala Wharf. Have Lunch and watch the turtles and enjoy a Brick fired pizza or Crab Louie Salad, Ahi Bruschetta their signature dish or a Rasberry Lilikoi Tart from it's in house bakery.
Leilani's offers premier oceanfront outdoor seating serving Hawaiian seafood, also steaks, chicken, and lighter fare.
Maui Photographer, Aubrey Hord, is a portrait photographer known for creating iconic photographs for playful, passionate and adventurous clients in Hawaii. She specializes in photography for couples, families and high school seniors. Serving Maui, Kauai, Oahu and Hawaii Island. www.aubreyhord.com
Cane & Canoe offers a window into the Hawaiian soul – both past and present. Here, in this historically rich locale, locals and travelers come together, savoring creative, modern cuisine that celebrates Hawaii’s diverse cultural influences while showcasing its freshest, locally sourced ingredients.
Our all-new historical botanical tours showcase the horticultural artistry of Haiku Mill, infused with its 150-year-old history, for an immersive experience that is both educational and unforgettable.
Ancient Hawaiian Weddings
Always casual, fun, and exciting with outstanding service, serving great food such as Bourbon Streeet Mahi or Dixie-style baby back ribs. The way Bubba would have done it. Group events available.