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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).
Haleakala Bike Company Inc now does business as Bike Maui, Cruiser Phil Volcano Riders, and Haleakala Ecotours. We offer seven different tours for biking down the volcano. Bike Maui offers the "Self-Guided" tours and Cruiser Phil's offers the "Guided" tours.
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.
Immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of Hawaii’s marine life at Maui Ocean Center, The Aquarium of Hawaii. Encounter schooling reef fish, sharks, stingrays, turtles, and experience the world's first virtual encounter with Hawaii's humpback whales in the Humpbacks of Hawaii Exhibit & 3D Sphere.
Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels. It's like swimming in a giant aquarium, but staying dry the whole time!
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.
Originally built in 1940, Kapalua’s Cliff House was once a facility for the managers of the historic Honolua Plantation. Now operated by Montage Kapalua Bay, Cliff House has been completely renovated and is now used as a historic and unparalleled venue for private events on Maui.
Maui's Leading Snorkel & Dive Center offering dive gear rentals, sales, instruction & beach wear, Maka Koa, our 48' custom dive boat, offers dives to Molokini, Back Wall, Cathedrals, & Wreck Dives. Maka Koa offers a full breakfast & deli lunch. Free Transportation provided south & west Maui.
Former site of the Champions & LPGA Skins Games, the Wailea Gold boasts sweeping mountain and ocean vistas, and multiple awards for exceptional course design. Amenities include lockers, lessons, restaurant, club and shoe rentals, training facility.
This oceanfront resort combines the comfort & convenience of a condominium with hotel-caliber services. Aston Ka’anapali Shores rests on 10 acres of tropical gardens. Resort offers a restaurant, spa, fitness center, BBQ grills, tennis & pickle ball courts, shuffle boards, 2 heated pools & jet spas.