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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).
Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels. It's like swimming in a giant aquarium, but staying dry the whole time!
Snorkel with award-winning Fair Wind Cruises! Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, our snorkeling tour travels up the Kona Coast to snorkel at historic Kealakekua Bay marine sanctuary, site of Captain Cook Monument. Our family friendly tours will be the highlight of your Kona, Hawaii vacation!
Sail down the Kona Coastline aboard our spacious vessel Hokulani. Snorkel in the pristine waters of the vibrant reef in Kealakekua Bay near the Captain Cook Monument. Join us for our nightly Manta Ray Snorkel Tour at the World Famous Manta Ray Village.
Hawaii's most complete beach and boat activities. Home of the world famous "Seasmoke" and luxurious "Alala" and Manu Iwa catamarans, offering Snorkel Cruises, Sunset Cocktail Cruises, Whale Watching, Glass Bottom Boat, SCUBA, kayaks, and beach day packages.
Kona Ocean Experience offers quality small group boat excursions to interact with/observe dolphins, whales, manta rays & other amazing marine life, snorkel above the reefs in the pristine waters of Kealakekua Bay, learn about Hawaiian Culture, folklore & history of the beautiful Kona Coast area.
Hawaii Nautical is one of Hawaii's largest ocean-activity providers, with a fleet of vessels serving many harbors across Oahu and the Island of Hawaii. We respect the ocean and the ecosystem, and follow strict guidelines so that all marine mammals and wildlife are protected.
Anelakai Adventures offers guided Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe, Night Manta Outrigger Canoe, Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board adventures on the Kona Coast of Big Island of Hawaii. Our goal is to share not only an amazing ocean experience with our guest, but also the history and culture of the island.
Daily "open range" rides over 11,000-acre working cattle ranch on historic Kohala Mountain. Lush pasture, native woods and spectacular views of the coastline and peaks. Marvel at the ancient Hawaiian ruins where King Kamehameha once trained his warriors.
HO'OMAU RANCH! Horseback riding, ATV/UTV Tours & Ranch Stay. Rare endemic, critically endangered tree species Loulu Palm Pritchardia Schattaueri, Mehamehame, Native Mesic forest. Hawaiian Hoary bat! Bird watch for endangered 'io, endemic 'apapane, 'elepaio and Pueo. Cattle pastures & Agritourism!