Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii

Whale Watching

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Whale Watching in Hawaii

Just as our idyllic weather welcomes tourists from around the world, the warm and shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for kohola, or humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. They race more than 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii, then stay for a lengthy vacation, frolicking just off our shores and delighting spectators from December through May. 

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.   


Cultural Significance of Whales in Hawaii

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. 


What's the Best Way to See Whales?

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. 

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).

Whale Watching in Hawaii

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Ultimate Ranch Tour
Kauai
Kipu Ranch Adventures
235 Kipu Road
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

Kipu Ranch Adventures, located on the lush island of Kauai, is proud to be one of the top eco-tours in Hawaii. We enable visitors and residents alike to discover the rich history, landscape and legends that make Kauai activities unique. Come out and join us for a tropical 4x4 off road adventure.

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Cabana Seating
Oahu
Miyako
2863 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Authentic Japanese food in an ocean-view setting. Choose between Western or traditional tatami (sit-down) style service. Outstanding kaiseki menus available.

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Gaylord's Ribs
Kauai
Gaylord's at Kilohana
3-2087 Kaumualii Highway
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

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.

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Restaurant
Maui
Swan Court Breakfast
200 Nohea Kai Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Swan Court in the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa offers a lavish breakfast buffet and a la carte selections in an open-air setting. Take in the stunning waterfalls cascading over lava rocks and swans peacefully floating by, while enjoying fresh, local flavors and traditional breakfast favorites.

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Royal Scoop Ice Cream Parlor & Cafe
Maui
Royal Scoop
2780 Kekaa Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

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.

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Learn More About The Cultural Significance Of Whales in Hawaii

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