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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!
Designed in the style of an 1880's Hawaiian village. Palm thatched roofs, rustic bungalows and paths lie amidst flower and fruit bearing trees, palms and tropical vegetation. It is an easy walk or drive to Kailua-Kona Village, ocean activities and exciting night life.
Award-winning uniquely chic eco boutique B&B and designer Restoration Sanctuary. Rustic upscale "treehouse" featuring private, outdoor showers, adorable "loaner" pets, and luxurious bamboo sheets. Short drive to three pristine bays with world-class diving, dolphins, turtles, and manta rays.
Three cottages in Volcano Village. Two studio cottages and a 2-bedroom. Each is a fully furnished home in lush settings and private. All have internet service, cable TV, a full kitchen, private bathroom with shower. Eight minute drive from the entrance to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
5th Street Ohana is a fusion of casual Hawaiian atmosphere with the quality and style of a secluded, small B&B. The location provides individual and family explorers a comfortable accommodation close to the popular Volcano National Park.
The Umauma Falls and ZipLine Experience is Hawaii's best 9-Line zipline experience. Enjoy beautiful ocean views and lush tropical vegetation while you zip over 14 waterfalls, including the famous triple-tier Umauma Falls and almost 2 miles of ziplining excitement. It's an experience of a lifetime!
Gingerhill Farm Retreat is a farm community dedicated to exploring sustainability, self-sufficiency, and stewardship of the land. To these ends, we have transformed our lush five-acre plot into a verdant botanical food forest. We do accommodation, different activities and a farm tours.
Located oceanfront in Kailua-Kona, Kona Bali Kai offers spacious studios, one, two and three-bedroom suites. The resort has a swimming pool, jet spa, and barbecue stations. Shopping, dining and activities are nearby in historic Kona Town.