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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.
We focus on the complete surfing experience. Lessons are available for beginning through advanced surfers with a special emphasis on safety and ocean awareness. Group and private surf lessons as well as specialized surf clinics.
Hawaiian Paddle Sports offers authentic, sustainable eco-tours that empower guests to discover a deeper appreciation of and connection to Hawaii’s marine environment. Guests can choose from private kayak, outrigger canoe, canoe surfing, whale watch, and snorkel tours, or take SUP or surf lessons.
Down The Hatch located in the Wharf in Lahaina across from the Banyan Tree. Serving Southern Aloha for Breakfast, Lunch, Longest Happy Hour on Maui 2-6p, Dinner & Late Night - OPEN daily 7:30a-2a-Kitchen open ‘til 12a-Voted 2017 & 2018 BEST BAR ON MAUI & 2016 Best Late Night Kitchen! www.dthmaui.com
Chef Zack Sato creates an array of delightful preparations featuring locally-grown, organic produce and fresh-caught island seafood. Located steps from beach, poolside at Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort.
This ocean-view restaurant offers breakfast and an extensive steak and seafood dinner menu. With an emphasis on local ingredients, Chef Joseph Yaple showcases prime and wagyu beef from Snake River Farms and local Hawaiian catch, prepared to perfection.
The Island BBQ at the Polynesian Cultural Center offers an all you can eat buffet featuring a quality continental menu. Served in a beautiful and spacious dining hall reflecting the islands of the Pacific, our family-friendly “all you can eat” menu comes with dishes to please your entire Ohana.
This award-winning, beachfront restaurant is open daily for breakfast & dinner. Serving lavish buffets, as well as savory entrees, Honu's on the Beach offers island-inspired cuisine & farm-to-table goodness. Enjoy its ocean view dining room or spacious lanai, complete with fire pits & scenic views.
Recognized as the premier Farm to Cup coffee company in the world, focused on the ultimate Hawaiian coffee experience while embracing the Spirit of Aloha.
This beautiful, casual dining restaurant is perfect for a leisurely breakfast or informal lunch or dinner, great family dining. Bountiful buffets are offered daily. Located in the Rainbow Tower.