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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).
Escape the crowds and join us on private cruise you won’t soon forget. Go faster and farther than anyone else in town on a private charter for spectacular coastal sightseeing tours, incredible sea life (turtles, fish, dolphins, and whales—in season), and snorkeling. The adventure is up to you!
Kauai Bound is a locally owned snorkel, golf, underwater camera, and beach rental and retail shop located in Lihue at Anchor Cove Shopping Center. We carry quality dry snorkels with silicone masks, new Wilson golf sets, underwater cameras, and more!
The Lana'i Culture & Heritage Center, a community museum, seeks to inspire people to be informed, thoughtful and active stewards of their heritage.
Enjoy a tranquil moment during your busy sightseeing schedule. Enjoy the lush gardens on the Laie Hawaii Temple grounds, then come inside the visitors' center to learn more about Jesus Christ and the purpose of temples. We also invite you to visit the nearby Polynesian Cultural Center.
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 award-winning Wailea Blue is a classic Hawaiian resort layout designed by Arthur Jack Snyder with wide fairways, cooling fountains, and beautiful mountain and ocean views. Also available: lockers, lessons, restaurant, pro shop & club and shoe rentals.
The Ocean Course winds its way through a mango and guava tree forest, down to the edge of the Pacific, with the finishing green in the midst of a 40-acre freshwater lagoon. Named one of the most beautiful courses in the world by MSN Travel, for the avid golfer, it is reason enough stay and play.
Still & Moving Center is a local and global hub for mindful movement. Activities at Still & Moving Center are available in person and online! Call us to book corporate & private groups, private sessions & group classes, focused on wellness and Hawaiian culture.
We are a PADI 5 Star Resort Center offering beginner to advanced SCUBA diving charters seven days a week at two locations on Oahu, Hawaii Kai and in Waikiki near Kewalo Basin Boat Harbor. We offer complimentary roundtrip transportation to and from Waikiki and Honolulu Hotels.
Hawaii Pacific Parks is a non-profit cooperating association working in partnership with the National Park Service in Hawaii and in American Samoa. Proceeds from our bookstores support interpretive and educational programs, research projects, publications, and cultural activities.