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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).
Built in 1901, the Pioneer Inn captures the ambiance of old whaling days, with architecture that evokes the tranquil lifestyle of turn-of-the-century Lahaina. This charming, renovated hotel is located at the water's edge on historic Lahaina Harbor.
Privately nestled against historic Black Rock promontory, Sheraton Maui is set amid 23 lush tropical acres on world famous Kaanapali Beach. The oceanfront resort offers 508 newly renovated guestrooms, exquisite dining, and spectacular water activities.
Aston The Whaler on Ka'anapali Beach is at the heart of Maui's finest vacation destination. Just minutes from Lahaina, this resort offers spacious studio, one-, and two-bedroom oceanfront units complete with kitchens, private lanais and daily maid service.
In Makena, discover the awe and wonder of ancient lava flows, pristine shorelines and historical sites. Cobbled pathways amid lush gardens meander to secluded sandy beaches, swimming pools, tennis courts, herb gardens and expansive 2- and 3-bedroom vacation residences with oceanfront views.
Embrace Hawaiian heritage and local culture during your stay at the new all-suites Wailea hotel. Whatever brings you to Maui, enjoy a resident-like stay with modern amenities that redefines your Hawaii experiences. Hawaii paradise living awaits.
Resting beachfront amid 11 acres of tropical gardens in the heart of the Kaanapali Resort area, the resort has a water activity center, two newly-renovated pool areas, a poolside café and a free shuttle to Kaanapali Resort area shopping and activities.
This spacious open-air condo is located on Molokai’s sunny west end at Kaluakoi. The architecture is plantation-style with two tall french doors spanning the length of the main floor. It is two-story with 1,200 sq. ft. of space.
Located oceanfront in Kailua-Kona, Kona Bali Kai offers spacious studios, one, two and three-bedroom suites. The resort has a swimming pool, jet spa, and barbecue stations. Shopping, dining and activities are nearby in historic Kona Town.
The Volcano Rainforest Retreat is a boutique Bed & Breakfast on the Big Island of Hawaii offering a collection of 4 distinct guest cottages, created with elegant simplicity in harmony and balance with the Hawaiian rain forest, adjacent to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and charming Volcano Village.
THE MODERN HONOLULU introduces cosmopolitan chic for leisure and business pursuits in Hawaii. We deftly combine sexy and sophisticated in everything we do. Every element is original; authentic or custom-designed to enhance the experience.