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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).
The Royal Scoop offers lighter fare with mouth-watering pastries and continental breakfast items, gourmet sandwiches and snacks, local Maui-made ice cream and frozen yogurt, and specialty coffees and smoothies. Outdoor seating is available, or for your convenience have your items wrapped to go.
Located in the King’s Course Clubhouse at the Waikoloa Resort, Mai Grille is a gathering place for a delightful breakfast, post-round relaxation, Sunday Brunch gatherings, serene happy hour and a glorious dining experience.
Full American breakfast buffet served daily, 6:30am-10am, with nightly Hawaiian and American dinner entrees served overlooking the Pacific. Enjoy afternoon and evening entertainment every night.
Mamahune’s is a retro-inspired tiki bar and restaurant that offers contemporary Hawaiian cuisine, handcrafted cocktails, and picturesque views of Kauai's Wailua Bay.
Set cliffside overlooking a protected marine preserve, Nobu Lanai offers sweeping panoramic views and innovative Japanese cuisine.
Always casual, fun, and exciting with outstanding service, serving great food such as Bourbon Streeet Mahi or Dixie-style baby back ribs. The way Bubba would have done it. Group events available.
Swim with wild dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat on Oahu's west side, or enjoy the view from our boat. Then enjoy ocean activities and a complimentary lunch as our crew entertains with hula and singing. Transportation from select Waikiki hotels available. Truly a lifetime experience.
This open-air bar offers Hawaiian coffee and light breakfast items, salads, sandwiches and housemade gelato at lunch. As the day winds down, gather for sharing plates, local beer, wine and craft cocktails or end the evening with nightcaps and dessert.
Hapuna’s new signature dining experience introduces an innovative menu inspired by the Mediterranean and infused with our island’s bounty.
Gaylord’s offers one of Kauai’s most beautiful settings for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch. Our kitchen uses only the freshest, seasonal ingredients supporting our local farmers and fishermen. Our 67-acre sustainable farm provides much of the produce and herbs used in our dishes and cocktails.