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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.
Escape from the crowds, buses and tour boats and see Maui from the ocean perspective! Connect with your friends and family as our professional kayak guides take you paddling and snorkeling. You'll see amazing wildlife, enjoy special moments, views and hear stories of Maui.
Full service travel agency located in Maui. We specialize in honeymoon and vacation packages to Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island. Our consultants provide personal, friendly service for all your travel needs.
Hawaiian Ocean Sports is one of Maui's premier ocean recreation businesses for over a decade. We offer a variety of ocean activities including surf rentals and lessons, Hawaiian outrigger cultural, turtle and snorkel tours.
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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.
Ali'i Kula Lavender's 13.5-acre farm resides at an elevation of roughly 4000 ft. and is home to approximately 55,000 lavender plants and 20 different varieties of lavender as well as an exceptional variety of other plants.
Live butterfly farm and educational tours. Hands on tours involving the entire life cycle of the butterfly including eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies. See some of the wildlife found on the farm. Surround yourself with live butterflies in Hawaii’s only live butterfly house.
Moana Glass is Maui's premier glassblowing studio and gallery. We offer the finest glass art made anywhere in the world and the unique experience of learning about glassblowing first-hand, while you make your own perfect Maui souvenir.