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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).
Hawaiian Paddle Sports offers authentic, sustainable eco-tours that empower guests to discover a deeper appreciation of and connection to Hawaii’s marine environment. Guests can choose from private kayak, outrigger canoe, canoe surfing, whale watch, and snorkel tours, or take SUP or surf lessons.
From sunrise to sunset, Haleakala National Park, and the surrounding upcountry Maui area offer memories for a lifetime. Make the most of your trip to Haleakala National Park on a guided tour with Skyline Hawaii. Let us do the navigating while you enjoy the views and learn about the environment and cultural significance of Haleakala.
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.
Donkey Balls? Visit the original chocolate factory and store in Kainaliu, where we've been hand making gourmet chocolates for over 14 years. Stop in and sample our wide selection of over 50 flavors or try our flavored macadamia nuts, award-winning brittles, hot sauces and more.
Ulu is unlike any store you’ve likely seen before. Built into our “Hawaiian Journeys Theatre” complex, which resembles a Hawaiian volcano, Ulu offers fine arts, ceramics, clothing, wood, music and DVDs, and more.
Luxury Row at 2100 Kalakaua Avenue offers finest collection of luxury brands in the world. International retailers include Chanel, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Moncler, Bottega Veneta, Miu Miu & Golden Goose. Located in heart of Waikiki, Luxury Row is a renowned international travel destination.
The Shops at Kukui‘ula is Kauai's premier shopping, dining and art destination. Showcasing architecture that pays homage to Hawaii's plantation past, The Shops at Kukui‘ula is home to dozens of unique shops and boutiques, award-winning restaurants and contemporary art galleries.
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