Scroll to Continue
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).
Hawaiian Paddle Sports offers authentic, sustainable eco-tours that empower guests to discover a deeper appreciation of and connection to Hawaii’s marine environment. Guests can choose from private kayak, outrigger canoe, canoe surfing, whale watch, and snorkel tours, or take SUP or surf lessons.
From our two mile long Zipline Through Paradise, to the only volcano tour on the Big Island chosen “BEST” by Princess Cruises the adventure of your dreams awaits with KapohoKine Adventures!
Escape from the crowds, buses and tour boats and see Maui from the ocean perspective! Connect with your friends and family as our professional kayak guides take you paddling and snorkeling. You'll see amazing wildlife, enjoy special moments, views and hear stories of Maui.
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.
We focus on the complete surfing experience. Lessons are available for beginning through advanced surfers with a special emphasis on safety and ocean awareness. Group and private surf lessons as well as specialized surf clinics.
Simple Oahu Wedding is an Oahu wedding planner specializing in creating Oahu wedding packages that take the stress out of the wedding planning process. Using Oahu's best wedding vendors, we have crafted Honolulu wedding packages with the gorgeous elements you want in a dream destination wedding.
Located directly on one of Maui's most beautiful swimming beaches, Mana Kai Maui offers all the conveniences of a condominium, along with the added amenities of a hotel. On site restaurant, grocery store, activity desk.
Hawaii Island Retreat is unique among Hawaii destinations, spas, and eco-retreats. Set among evergreens and ocean breezes along Hawaii's Kohala coast, our 50 acre spa retreat offers luxury accommodations in complete harmony with nature.
Hotel / Condominium offering 17 completely furnished vacation condominiums overlooking Hana Bay and the Pacific Ocean in the heart of historic Hana town.
Nestled upcountry among 30-acres of lush tropical gardens, our Kona bed and breakfast offers spectacular ocean views and traditional Island luxury on a private Kona Coffee estate. Choose from elegant rooms, suites, a private cottage or our newly-renovated private Red Barn.