Scroll to Continue
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.
Indulge your senses within this magnificent oceanfront resort offering luxuriously furnished studios and one-bedroom villas with Heavenly Beds and Baths, swimming pools, spa, kids club, restaurants, outdoor barbecue grills and fun activities.
Located across from the Yacht Harbor and a short walk to both Waikiki Beach & Ala Moana Beach Park, this Boutique Hotel offers access to both the excitement of Waikiki with the culture and world class shopping of Honolulu.
Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection is a luxury resort on the Big Island of Hawaii. Auberge Resorts Collection consists of hotels, residences and membership clubs in the United States, Europe, Mexico and other international destinations.
Next Level Entertainment is a DJ & Entertainment company based in Maui, Hawaii. We are world class DJs, Emcees, & Lighting FX professionals. With us, there is no one-size-fits-all. We bring people together by creating personalized events that engineer legendary experiences for extraordinary people.
Chef Zack Sato creates an array of delightful preparations featuring locally-grown, organic produce and fresh-caught island seafood. Located steps from beach, poolside at Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort.
Privately nestled against historic Black Rock promontory, Sheraton Maui is set amid 23 lush tropical acres on world famous Kaanapali Beach. The oceanfront resort offers 508 newly renovated guestrooms, exquisite dining, and spectacular water activities.
Queen Emma Summer Palace or Hānaiakamalama, served as a summer retreat for Queen Emma of Hawai‘i, her husband King Kamehameha IV, and their son, Prince Albert Edward. It is now a historic landmark, museum, and tourist site preserved by the Daughters of Hawai‘i.
THE MODERN HONOLULU introduces cosmopolitan chic for leisure and business pursuits in Hawaii. We deftly combine sexy and sophisticated in everything we do. Every element is original; authentic or custom-designed to enhance the experience.