Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii

Whale Watching

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Whale Watching in Hawaii

Just as our idyllic weather welcomes tourists from around the world, the warm and shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for kohola, or humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. They race more than 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii, then stay for a lengthy vacation, frolicking just off our shores and delighting spectators from December through May. 

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.   


Cultural Significance of Whales in Hawaii

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. 


What's the Best Way to See Whales?

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. 

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).

Whale Watching in Hawaii

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Oahu
O Bar
2490 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

O Bar is a welcome destination for guests throughout the day. Overlooking our spectacular three-story Oceanarium, it’s an open, relaxed gathering place and one of the most distinctive Waikiki Beach bars.

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Kauai
Day Break
650 Aleka Loop
Kapaa, HI 96746
Summary

Voyager Grille has been completely refurbished, open 7 days a week for breakfast & dinner featuring private dining, a fabulous breakfast buffet and dinner specials featuring a Hawaiian Fusion influence.

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Maui
The Cliff Dive Bar
2605 Kaanapali Pkwy
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Encircled by the crystal blue waters of our lava-enhanced swimming pool, The Cliff Dive Bar offers hot grilled lunches and tropical specialties throughout the day. At sunset, this is the best location to witness the traditional Cliff Diving ceremony.

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Hawaii
Kona Brewing Company
74-5612 Pawai Pl
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Hawaii's largest craft brewery, distributed in Hawaiian Islands, throughout mainland U.S., Japan. Restaurants on Big Island and Oahu serve craft beer and innovative, local cuisine. Outdoor & indoor air-conditioned seating. Extensive retail.

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Hawaii
The Orchid Court
1 North Kaniku Drive
Kohala Coast, HI 96743
Summary

Start the day right with a delicious breakfast. The Orchid Court offers bountiful traditional and island favorites at our breakfast buffet and tempting a la carte items, fresh juices and exceptional service.

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Oahu
Hapas
2255 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Hapas Pizza is a fast, fun, irreverent grab and go Pizzeria that combines classic Italian staples with all the best fresh local Hawaiian Ingredients in a fusion that truly lives up to its name – Hapas!

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Maui
Ka'ana Kitchen
3550 Wailea Alanui Drive
Wailea, HI 96753
Summary

Sharing food with the people you love is a big part of traditional Hawaiian culture, and our fresh restaurant Ka’ana Kitchen offers a family-style experience. Discover dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner made with ingredients from local farms, all reflecting the authentic flavors of the island.

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Maui
Volcano Bar
3850 Wailea Alanui
Wailea, HI 96753
Summary

Volcano Bar is the ideal Maui poolside restaurant offering a fun and relaxed environment to have lunch and cocktails under the Hawaii sun. Volcano Bar serves crisp salads, delicious sandwiches, freshly grilled hamburgers and fresh fish and exotic tropical drinks.

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Maui
Lehua Lounge
3550 Wailea Alanui Drive
Wailea, HI 96753
Summary

Named after Hawaii’s brilliant red Lehua blossom, this elegant island lounge is nestled among waterfalls and features handcrafted cocktails, gorgeous views of Mokapu Beach and small bites of farm-to-table cuisine.

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