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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.
OHANA Waikiki Malia features renovated Malia Tower guest rooms, lobby and common areas, offering fresh surroundings in the heart of Waikiki. Hotel includes an IHOP restaurant and is conveniently located near shopping and dining on Kalakaua Avenue.
Newly renovated deluxe full service hotel. Just steps to Waikiki Beach. Featuring spectacular city, mountain and ocean views. Fitness room, Business Center, restaurant and cocktail lounge. High speed Internal in public areas and guest rooms.
Ala Kukui is a cultural center for native Hawaiian spiritual and intellectual advancement. Our retreat space offers a unique opportunity to engage with our local community of cultural practitioners who pay respect to the environment through traditional Hawaiian practices.
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A local favorite, Pagoda Hotel is an affordable urban hotel near Ala Moana Center and central Honolulu. The hotel is close to shopping, dining, Downtown Honolulu, the Hawaii Convention Center, and Waikiki. On-site amenities include a pool, meeting/banquet facilities, and Pagoda Floating Restaurant.
Your Maui retreat starts here at the island’s newest Adults Only boutique resort. Just steps away from the beautiful five-mile white sand beach, Mai Poina ‘Oe la’u, Kohea Kai Resort is the perfect place to relax on the southwest shore of Maui. Enjoy FREE breakfast daily from 6:30-9:30am.
This Maui beachfront resort with low-rise buildings spans 34 acres of tropical landscaping and terraces down to Keawakapu Beach. Amenities include 4 swimming pools, paddle tennis, shuffleboard, barbecue grills and beachfront pavilion.
Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel, fronting world-famous Kāʻanapali Beach, is officially recognized as Hawai’i’s Most Hawaiian Hotel. Here on 11 acres of tropical gardens, our guests can relax and truly enjoy the romantic Hawaiian atmosphere. Here you will experience Aloha at its best!