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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.
Valley Isle Excursions takes you on one of the most breathtaking drives on earth down the road to Hana Maui. Spectacular cliffs, bamboo jungles, hawaiian waterfalls, tropical scenery and colorful fragrant flowers are part of our "Heavenly Hana" tour.
Fine dining in a casual atmosphere, our buffet menu includes succulent prime rib, seafood, fresh island dishes and yummy desserts. Our Prime Rib Buffet is set in a stunning venue with beautiful murals welcoming all to our tropical paradise.
The Veranda is the hottest spot for the trendy Honolulu crowd as well as hotel guests searching for the place to see and be seen. Overlooking the beach, with a stunning contemporary alfresco area, the Veranda is Honolulu’s living room of the stars.
Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. provides unique family recipes that customers, as well as tour guests, can enjoy. Our menu is constantly changing with the seasons so there's always something new, fresh and delicious for you to come and try!
Serving up world-class steaks, seafood and sushi, Japengo at Hyatt Regency Maui provides Hawaii’s freshest, locally-grown products and exotic Pacific Rim cuisine. Enjoy Japengo’s indoor and outdoor seating overlooking Ka’anapali Beach, or watch as sushi is rolled to order in the chic Sushi Lounge.
A tribute to legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku, this popular restaurant and barefoot bar offers fresh island fish, prime steaks, live Hawaiian entertainment and stunning ocean views.
A remarkable beachside seafood buffet under the stars with sounds of the ocean's surf and contemporary Island music. Saturday evenings, offered seasonally, at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
Enjoy a casual lunch, ice cold beer and libations on legendary Mauna Kea Golf Course at the clubhouse. Venue available evenings for special events.
Fresh Big Island products prepared in an exciting contemporary manner by critically acclaimed Chef Merriman.