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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.
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This open-air restaurant offers a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu filled with traditional favorites that are enhanced with local flavors, like the Onolicious French Toast made with Molokai sweet bread and lilikoi butter.
The success of our Cheeseburger Brand is legendary in the food service industry, and we live up to the legend here in Wailea. We believe that Paradise is a State of Mind, and you will find all of the ingredients you need for a great meal at our location in the Shops of Wailea.
Burger Shack is a casual, oceanfront hideaway where guests can savor signature burgers, whimsical shakes and a selection of featured cocktails, craft and local beer.
Grab-and-go café located on the lobby level featuring homemade pastries, salads and wraps made with local, organic and seasonal ingredients.
'Ūmalu offers casual cuisine poolside at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Choose from a variety of fresh salads and creative sandwiches throughout the day at our shaded restaurant or between the waterfalls at our Grotto Bar. Also enjoy our new dinner menu full of mouthwatering entrees, as late as midnight.
Located poolside, the Tiki Grill serves burgers, sandwiches, and snacks for a perfect outdoor picnic. Chicken Caesar Salad, chilled tropical fruits, delicious appetizers and ice-cold soft drinks are served with aloha. Complimentary entertainment nightly.
Lahaina Grill features cuisine using techniques and flavors from around the world with the freshest ingredients from Maui’s local farms, dairies and surrounding waters. Voted Top 10 fine dining restaurants in U.S. for 2018 by TripAdvisor and Best Maui Restaurant for 26 years in a row. (1994-2019).