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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Skyline Hawaii
Maui
Skyline Hawaii
12 Kiopaa St.
Makawao, HI 96768
Summary

From sunrise to sunset, Haleakala National Park, and the surrounding upcountry Maui area offer memories for a lifetime. Make the most of your trip to Haleakala National Park on a guided tour with Skyline Hawaii. Let us do the navigating while you enjoy the views and learn about the environment and cultural significance of Haleakala.

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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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Whale watching
Oahu
Wild Side Specialty Tours
87-1002 Hakimo Place Unit C.
Waianae Small Boat Harbor
Waianae, HI 96792
Summary

Oahu's only marine-biologist founded and led ocean wildlife tours. Small group (6-10 passengers) charters include year-round whale watching, swimming with dolphins, and snorkeling with giant sea turtles and endemic tropical reef fish. Portion of proceeds donated to marine conservation orgs.

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Studio Deluxe Bed With View
Oahu
Ilima Hotel
445 Nohonani St
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

High-Speed Internet in every studio or suite! Condo style w/Hotel services in central Waikiki. Full kitchens, daily maid service. Free limited parking, free 800 & Oahu phone calls. New Conference Center up to 50 w/free a/v equipment!

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Kalapaki Beach
Kauai
Kauai Marriott Resort
3610 Rice Street
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

Nestled on a quarter mile of white sand beach, Kaua`i Marriott Resort offers an irresistible combination of Hawaiian hospitality and luxurious accommodations. Set within acres of lush exotic gardens, the resort centrally located to the island's many outdoor adventures and minutes from the airport.

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