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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).
Here is a great source of information about Kauai’s convenient Wailua to Kapaa region. This area is known for its abundant coconut palm trees, affordable lodging, many beach parks, Hawaii’s only navigable river, an extraordinary coastal bike path, a long list of restaurants, and lots of adventures.
The Shops at Kukui‘ula is Kauai's premier shopping, dining and art destination. Showcasing architecture that pays homage to Hawaii's plantation past, The Shops at Kukui‘ula is home to dozens of unique shops and boutiques, award-winning restaurants and contemporary art galleries.
Family owned business selling jewelry by well known local designer Denny Wong, cultured Tahitian Pearl original designs made in Hawaii by Mark Kane Designs, Marahlago Larimar jewelry and Hawaiian Koa Wood rings, watches and more.
Kauai Banyan Inn has private bed & breakfast vacation rental suites - beautifully appointed with everything you need for a peaceful, relaxing visit to Kauai. Hillside location affords sweeping panoramic mountain and distant ocean views.
Just named the #1 resort in Hawaii by Travel + Leisure, Ko'a Kea is a 121-room boutique oceanfront hotel on the south shore. This intimate and romantic resort offers the island’s closest guestrooms to the water, complemented by award-winning service that is both highly personalized and personable.
120 year old North Shore company store for the Kilauea Sugar Plantation has evolved to become an upscale gift and clothing boutique for transcendent and timeless merchandise. Located on the road to the Kilauea Lighthouse, minutes from Princeville.
Nestled on a quarter mile of white sand beach, Kaua`i Marriott Resort offers an irresistible combination of Hawaiian hospitality and luxurious accommodations. Set within acres of lush exotic gardens, the resort centrally located to the island's many outdoor adventures and minutes from the airport.