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).
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.
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.
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.
This secluded beachfront resort on Kaanapali Beach offers panoramic views of the beautiful Pacific from every suite. Custom decorated studio, one- and two-bedroom air-conditioned suites offer complete kitchens and large lanais.
The most coveted spot on Waikiki Beach is at The Royal Hawaiian, within the billowing sanctuary of private beachfront cabanas or from luxurious guest rooms showcasing unrivaled panoramic views of Diamond Head and the sparkling Pacific Ocean - we offer Hawaii's most majestic experiences.
Chef-Owner Peter Merriman has brought his unique style of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine to this beautiful ocean-side setting within the Kapalua Resort.
Situated overlooking legendary Hanalei Bay, Princeville Resort brings unmatched sophistication and serene luxury to one of the most remarkable places in the world.
This boutique hotel offers style in a convenient location just 2 short blocks to Waikiki Beach, and near the International Market Place. Hotel Renew offers elegant guest rooms with an intimate atmosphere. Amenities include WiFi internet access, daily continental breakfast and a daily happy hour.
The Veranda is the hottest spot for the trendy Honolulu crowd as well as hotel guests searching for the place to see and be seen. Overlooking the beach, with a stunning contemporary alfresco area, the Veranda is Honolulu’s living room of the stars.
Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa's 2016 renovation features contemporary redesigned guest rooms and new spaces for mingling. The resort offers a Mandara Spa, infinity pools, ocean view dining and calm beach, all located a short stroll from destination shopping and dining.