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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 81-room Coconut Waikiki Hotel offers guests a colorful, contemporary twist on classic Waikiki style with an art deco-inspired design. Located just three blocks from the world famous Waikiki Beach, the hotel provides easy access to Waikiki's array of shops, restaurants and nightlife.
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Child friendly Hawaii hotel features 1 bedroom suites, w/ fully equipped kitchens making dining affordable. Facilities include mini-playground, heated swimming pool,10 bbq grills, tennis, sauna, and two hot tubs. Near Waikiki beach and family attractions.
Aston The Whaler on Ka'anapali Beach is at the heart of Maui's finest vacation destination. Just minutes from Lahaina, this resort offers spacious studio, one-, and two-bedroom oceanfront units complete with kitchens, private lanais and daily maid service.
Enjoy time out of the sunshine relaxing oceanside at Hau Tree. Enjoy lunch and Mauna Kea's famous and refreshing Ovaltine Froth. Catch sunset at the Gazebo Bar with our signature drink, the Fredrico, in hand. Join us Saturdays for the Mauna Kea Clambake.
This Smithsonian-affiliated Lyman Museum tells the story of Hawaii’s islands and people. Exhibits trace Hawaii’s history from its volcanic origins and the flora and fauna that arrived before humans to life in ancient Hawaii and the immigrant groups that helped shape Hawaii’s unique culture of today
The Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel offers resort-style amenities without the resort price tag. This beachfront hotel features 452 guest rooms, 2 ocean view restaurants, an infinity pool, & is home to 20,000 square feet of event space, which can accommodate up to 500 persons.