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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).
A warm greenhouse-style restaurant offering Hawaii Regional Cuisine featuring fresh fish, local produce and inventive appetizers such as prized musubi topped with house made spam.
Maui’s newest dinner series, Hook + Knife, features a curated selection of signature dishes from the innovative culinary team at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Grounded in steakhouse classics, the Hook + Knife menu elevates these traditional favorites with a taste and local flair all its own.
Featuring succulent cuts of beef, tender free-range game and fresh island seafood, the ocean side Beach Tree Bar & Grill offers exceptional grilled items in a relaxed setting. Specialty nights include the signature Surf, Sand and Stars Barbecue buffet.
Roy Yamaguchi’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine blends fresh local ingredients with European sauces and bold Asian spices, always with a focus on seafood. Each evening you’ll find a tantalizing range of appetizers, entrées, fresh fish dishes and desserts.
Creative Asian plates and House made noodles.
Open-air restaurant features lavish breakfast buffet and Pacific Rim dining daily.
Ko offers cuisine reflective of the many cultures of Hawaii's sugarcane plantation era. The menu is inspired by the rich history and culinary traditions of Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese cultures.
This locals' favorite features delightful flavors and components of exciting California Coastal Cuisine, Pacific Rim & Hawaiian Regional Cuisine by Chef de Cuisine Robert Barrera.
Educational tour of the native plants, history of the sugarcane plantation and architectural history of the mansion. Conducted by the owner Ms. Leona Wilson.
It’s easy to feel drawn to The Grove or Passageway at THE MODERN HONOLULU. Arbors, bougainvillea and hibiscus create a garden allure among the al fresco seating of The Grove; lush banquettes and overstuffed wicker chairs beckon you to lounge in Passageway.