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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).
Poipu’s luxury nightspot offers sweeping views, scrumptious sushi, inventive cocktails, tropical drinks, aged whiskies, cognacs and ports. Live Island music nightly.
Gunstock Ranch, home of Oahu's first Hawaiian Legacy Forest, is a 45-year old family owned horse and cattle ranch. Come explore and learn about Hawaii as well as give back by planting and dedicating a tree. Adventure options include horseback riding and off-road vehicles, hiking and walking tours.
Maui's only indoor trampoline park with over 14,000 sq ft of trampoline activities. Available for open jump, birthday parties, group outings, and corporate events. Activites include freestyle, extreme trampolines, dodgeball, basketball, jousting, and a keiki court.
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.
Honolulu's culture hub featuring a world-class art collection, theater, cafés, shop, art classes, and art research library on three historic properties.
Kukui Grove Center and Kukui Marketplace is Kauai’s largest lifestyle center destination. The 50-acre open-air Center features over 50 stores and restaurants.
Enjoy a one hour sail aboard the Kepoikai II Catamaran straight from the iconic Waikiki beach with breathtaking views of Diamond Head and the Honolulu skyline.
The first to coin the phrase, "Cadillac of Helicopters" due to the helicopter's luxury comfort and visibility. On your Kauai helicopter tour you'll enjoy rainbows, waterfalls, canyons and Na Pali Coast. A family owned and operated company since 1987.
Hawaii Islands only family owned and operated Native Hawaiian Surf School. Join our 'ohana of Lifeguards and watermen. Team HLSI is proud to offer the only surfing classroom on the island for students to practice surf skills, increasing the successful board stories before paddling out.
Pride of Maui is Maui’s #1 Molokini Snorkel Tour with over 30 years experience. She is the most spacious vessel on Maui, with unsurpassed stability and amenities. Her expert crew are some of the best in the business.