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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).
Naturalist-led hikes with extraordinary guides renowned for their knowledge of Hawaiian botany, geology, culture, and history. Lush rainforests, stunning waterfalls, majestic Haleakala Crater, heavenly Hana, and more. Tours include transportation to the trailhead, lunch, equipment, and narration.
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Contemporary sushi and new wave Asian inspired dishes are what make Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar one of Hawai’i’s most critically acclaimed and wildly popular restaurants. Bon Appetit named Sansei one of its “Favorite Asian Restaurants” and one of “America’s Best Sushi Bars.”
Located in the hip new Kauai Shores Hotel in Kapa'a on the Coconut Coast of beautiful Kauai. Lava Lava Beach Club is what you come to Hawaii for. Come get some sand between your toes! Creative cocktails, casual laid-back fare, delicious entrees on the beach with live musicians entertaining nightly.
The Royal Scoop offers lighter fare with mouth-watering pastries and continental breakfast items, gourmet sandwiches and snacks, local Maui-made ice cream and frozen yogurt, and specialty coffees and smoothies. Outdoor seating is available, or for your convenience have your items wrapped to go.
Lana'i Ocean Sports is committed to excellence by creating lifelong memories through personalized service delivered with Aloha. As stewards and sailors, we perpetuate our Hawaiian culture and protect our environment. As an ‘Ohana, we value each other and inspire integrity, innovation, and community.
This ocean-view restaurant offers breakfast and an extensive steak and seafood dinner menu. With an emphasis on local ingredients, Chef Joseph Yaple showcases prime and wagyu beef from Snake River Farms and local Hawaiian catch, prepared to perfection.
Kahi Ola Mau Farm is the home of Honoka'a Chocolate Co. Located just mauka of the historic plantation town of Honoka'a, we offer farm tours and tastings of the small-batch artisan chocolates that we make on-site in our farm store, made from cacao beans from around the globe, including Hawaii.
The fresh flavours of Sydney's stylish surf bars meet the relaxed island vibe of Hawaii at Australian restaurateur Bill Granger's all day casual eatery. Enjoy joyful, barefoot-from-the-beach dining with a menu inspired by the local tropical produce.
The Kona Coffee and Tea Company is an Award-winning, single-estate, 100% Kona coffee farm, that is family-owned and operated. We grow, mill, roast, package and brew our own beans. "From our farm to your cup"