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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).
Originally built in 1940, Kapalua’s Cliff House was once a facility for the managers of the historic Honolua Plantation. Now operated by Montage Kapalua Bay, Cliff House has been completely renovated and is now used as a historic and unparalleled venue for private events on Maui.
At our Luau Site, step back in time 100 years to the Hawaii of yesterday and "Experience Ohana" as you dine under palm trees and stars at our beach while being entertained Hawaiian-style. We also offer professional Polynesian entertainment for weddings, parties and conventions at your event space.
McBryde Garden is a veritable Noah's ark for threatened and endangered plants of the tropics. Located in the verdant Lawa`i Valley. Self-guided tours available daily. Tram into garden. Other tours available.
We offer 8 top-ranked discounted activities on Maui: Authentic Taste of Maui - Food Tour, Iao Valley & Upcountry farm tour, Segway Guided Tours, Road to Hana Waterfalls & Lunch, Treasure Hunt Family Adventure Honolua Adventure w/lunch, Harley Davidson motorcycle guided tours, and Private Guide custom tours.
The Hawai‘i Wildlife Center (HWC) is a state-of-the-art native wildlife hospital and rehabilitation center. The facility features a science and discovery center and retail store. Science center admission is free. Donations are welcome. Public hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Come visit the most authentic luau on the island. The Ali'i Luau offers melt-in-your-mouth Kalua Pork from the traditional firepit and other island cuisine. Not only do we take great pride in making our luau the most delicious, we also embrace Hawaiian culture to give you a fantastic experience.
Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel extends their ho‘okipa by presenting The Legends of Kā‘anapali Lū‘au every Monday night in the heart of the hotel‘s Tiki Courtyard. You’ll be greeted with warm smiles by the friendly staff of the hotel, leading you to a scrumptious feast prepared by island-born chefs.
Big Island's most popular luau at the Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. Located on the historical grounds of Ahu Ena Heiau on Kamakahonu Bay. Includes the arrival of the Royal Court by canoe, an imu ceremony, a buffet dinner, open bar and a spectacular Polynesian review.
Haleo luau at Sheraton Kona celebrates the history of Keauhou and those who came from this area. From the birth of Kamehameha III to the surfing stories of Heeia Bay, dancers and musicians take guests on a journey through a very special time in Hawaii's history.