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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).
Booking online with Snorkel Molokini is the easiest, least expensive and fastest way to plan your snorkel at Molokini Crater.
ALOHA! And welcome aboard any one, or all three, of our Conductor Narrated Authentic Train Tours of Historic and Beautiful 105 acre Kilohana Plantation. Sit back and relax in our elegant mahogany passenger cars as you tour and see the tropical beauty and bounty of Kilohana.
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.
Dolphin Swims, Night Manta Snorkel, Whale Watching. Experience the magic of snorkeling with Dolphins off the beautiful Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii!
Affordable guided half and full-day hikes. The hikes range from easy to strenuous. Localities include rain forests, waterfalls, valleys and mountain. A narrative on Hawaiian history, volcanology and flora is given. Day packs, water and meal provided. VOTED EXCELLENT ON TRIPADVISOR FOR 2019 !
Maui's newest luxury resort - located on Kaanapali North Beach - features full gourmet kitchens and very spacious one-, two- and 3-bedroom suites each with a generous lanai and world-class views.
Boutique bed & breakfast in the heart of Volcano Village. Hale Ohu offers three rooms with private entrances, complimentary continental breakfasts, parking, free Wi-Fi and spa-like bathrooms. The beautifully landscaped five-acre property has gardens and a tranquil Rainforest Walk to explore.
As the sun sets across famed Kaanapali Beach, beating drums and the call of a conch shell signal the start of Maui's most exciting and longest running Polynesian luau. Enjoy a stunning celebration of music and dance that culminates with an amazing fire knife finale sure to dazzle the entire family.
Oahu's only marine-biologist founded and led ocean wildlife tours. Small group (6-10 passengers) charters include year-round whale watching, swimming with dolphins, and snorkeling with giant sea turtles and endemic tropical reef fish. Portion of proceeds donated to marine conservation orgs.
Enjoy a garden luau followed by Kauai's most spectacular international pageant at the lagoon amphitheater. The Golden People of Hawaii depicts dances and songs from Polynesia and Asia. Luau's are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.