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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.
Located in the King’s Course Clubhouse at the Waikoloa Resort, Mai Grille is a gathering place for a delightful breakfast, post-round relaxation, Sunday Brunch gatherings, serene happy hour and a glorious dining experience.
Mamahune’s is a retro-inspired tiki bar and restaurant that offers contemporary Hawaiian cuisine, handcrafted cocktails, and picturesque views of Kauai's Wailua Bay.
This open-air bar offers Hawaiian coffee and light breakfast items, salads, sandwiches and housemade gelato at lunch. As the day winds down, gather for sharing plates, local beer, wine and craft cocktails or end the evening with nightcaps and dessert.
Gaylord’s offers one of Kauai’s most beautiful settings for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch. Our kitchen uses only the freshest, seasonal ingredients supporting our local farmers and fishermen. Our 67-acre sustainable farm provides much of the produce and herbs used in our dishes and cocktails.
Billfish Poolside Bar & Grille offers casual, al fresco dining every day for lunch, dinner, & happy hour. Its poolside location is the perfect place to enjoy tropical drinks, tasty food, & ocean views. Plus, enjoy daily Happy Hour from 5 pm - 6 pm, including discounted domestic beers & appetizers!
Makana Charters is the only Na Pali tour company offering personalized or private morning and afternoon tours on the Na Pali coast on your choice of three vessels - a 32 or 12 person catamaran, or an adventurous tour on our shaded raft. Explore the sea caves, get under waterfalls, and snorkel.
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).
Take in the glow of Diamond head at golden hour and the magic of the Honolulu city lights from an all-new luxury powerboat! Ocean and You is the premier Oahu experience for an intimate and upscale sunset dinner cruise.
Award winning Hawaii regional cuisine featuring steak and seafood in an open-air setting. Hawaiian hula show nightly with dancing under the stars. Serving breakfast, dinner, and Sunday Champagne brunch.