Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii

Whale Watching

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Whale Watching in Hawaii

Just as our idyllic weather welcomes tourists from around the world, the warm and shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for kohola, or humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. They race more than 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii, then stay for a lengthy vacation, frolicking just off our shores and delighting spectators from December through May. 

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.   


Cultural Significance of Whales in Hawaii

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. 


What's the Best Way to See Whales?

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. 

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).

Whale Watching in Hawaii

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Kilauea Volcano
Hawaii
Kona Nature Tours
75-5737 Kuakini Highway #201
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Kona Nature Tours provide unique and customized experiences for visitors to the Big Island of Hawaii. Our adventure guides will take you to where we go, to see what we see and to live like we live. Experience: History and Culture, SCUBA, Guitars, Designed-to-taste meals, Rappelling, Portage Services, Private Beaches, Private Coves, Overnight Camping, Your Imagination.

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On Maui's Kaanapali Coast
Maui
Aston at Papakea Resort
3543 Lower Honoapiilani Road
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

A garden paradise on magical Maui. This oceanfront haven is set within 13 acres of freshwater ponds, picturesque bridges, expansive lawns, and tropical landscaping. Each unit has a full kitchen and an in-room washer/dryer. Enjoy 2 pools and hot tubs, bbq grills, putting greens and tennis courts.

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Game Area
Oahu
Coconut Waikiki Hotel
450 Lewers Street
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

The 81-room Coconut Waikiki Hotel offers guests a colorful, contemporary twist on classic Waikiki style with an art deco-inspired design. Located just three blocks from the world famous Waikiki Beach, the hotel provides easy access to Waikiki's array of shops, restaurants and nightlife.

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Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel
Oahu
Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel
2570 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Located on the most scenic end of Waikiki and directly across from Waikiki Beach, this hotel features an outdoor pool, fitness center, meeting & banquet rooms, an activities desk and concierge, WiFi internet access, and on-site dining. Contemporary guest rooms offer a lanai & a Keurig coffee maker.

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Dolphin Encounter
Oahu
Sea Life Park Hawaii
41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy
Waimanalo, HI 96795
Summary

With a focus on conservation and education, this East Oahu attraction is a great place to meet dolphins, sea lions, green sea turtles, rays, native fish and more. It's small enough to enjoy on foot, yet diverse enough to be a full-day attraction, and is also home to the top rated luau on Oahu.

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Aston at the Maui Banyan
Maui
Aston at the Maui Banyan
2575 S. Kihei Rd
Kihei, HI 96753
Summary

This condominium resort is ideally located across from Kamaole Beach Park. Offers a variety of accommodations from hotel rooms to 3 bedroom suites. Access to swimming pools, outdoor bbq grills, tennis courts, and close to golf and the beach. Popular for families/large parties.

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