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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).
Explore Maui Nui’s ocean environment with the experts at Pacific Whale Foundation through PacWhale Eco-Adventures top-rated Whalewatches, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lanai and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises.
Recognized as the premier Farm to Cup coffee company in the world, focused on the ultimate Hawaiian coffee experience while embracing the Spirit of Aloha.
Dine Hawaiian-style. Feel the romance in thatched-roof bungalows that seemingly float above a koi filled lagoon at the base of a waterfall. Savor contemporary Hawaiian cuisine featuring fresh fish and steak in this extraordinary setting.
Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. provides unique family recipes that customers, as well as tour guests, can enjoy. Our menu is constantly changing with the seasons so there's always something new, fresh and delicious for you to come and try!
Perched at the ocean’s edge overlooking famed Waikiki Beach, Hula Grill Waikiki presents diners with spectacular views of the beach and ocean. Open for breakfast and dinner daily plus lunch all weekend long.
Oceanfront, award-winning restaurant on Napili Bay, serving breakfast 7 am-2 pm, lunch 9 am- 2 pm, Happy Hour 2 pm-4:30 pm and dinner 5 pm-9 pm seven days a week (holiday hours may vary).
Sample creations of renowned chef Peter Merriman amid memories of old Hawaii.
Hoku's at The Kahala Hotel & Resort is heralded for its innovative fusion fare which melds Hawaiian, Asian, Mediterranean and European flavors. The restaurant’s twist on contemporary Island cuisine ensures that it is consistently ranked as one of Hawaii's best restaurants.
Historic site, group tours. Art classes, exhibits, workshops, studios, lectures, gift shop, mansion, botanical gardens.
Mamahune’s is a retro-inspired tiki bar and restaurant that offers contemporary Hawaiian cuisine, handcrafted cocktails, and picturesque views of Kauai's Wailua Bay.