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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).
Experience Polynesian culture at the Drums of the Pacific Luau located at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Enjoy song and dance from the islands of Polynesia, including an all-you-can-eat buffet with traditional island fare, authentic imu ceremony, and three-man Samoan fire-knife dance, all oceanside.
Aloha Festivals is a statewide non-profit, multi-cultural festival formed in 1946 and held each September. It features over 100 events: parades, street parties, cultural displays and more. Most events free with discounts offered to ribbon wearers.
We are a PADI 5 Star Resort Center offering beginner to advanced SCUBA diving charters seven days a week at two locations on Oahu, Hawaii Kai and in Waikiki near Kewalo Basin Boat Harbor. We offer complimentary roundtrip transportation to and from Waikiki and Honolulu Hotels.
Hawaii Pacific Parks is a non-profit cooperating association working in partnership with the National Park Service in Hawaii and in American Samoa. Proceeds from our bookstores support interpretive and educational programs, research projects, publications, and cultural activities.
In the Polynesian Cultural Center is our Mahinalani Gift Shop, displaying the finest traditional arts and crafts from Samoa, New Zealand, Marquesas, Fiji, Tonga, Tahiti, and the Hawaiian Islands. Take with you a piece of Polynesia.
Holokai Kayak and Snorkel Adventure, located at He'eia State Park, is a not-for-profit eco - tour provider. We offer various Ocean adventure activities, sll of which focus on education and preservation of Hawaiian Culture and marine ecosystems.
Tropical Ocean Sports Inc. & Tropical Island Creations caters primarily to Japanese agents. We bring their customers to Kaneohe Bay for ocean sports and Eco & glass bottom boat tours. Our ocean sports activities include seawalker scuba, jet ski, amongst other miscellaneous options.
Experience an exhilarating and enchanting journey through Hawaiian history—and discover its deep cultural roots in canoe (waʻa) exploration, which brought the first ancient explorers to the shores of Ko Olina.