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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Saltwater Lagoon
Hawaii
Hilton Waikoloa Village
69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive
Waikoloa, HI 96738-5710
Summary

A spectacular oceanfront resort on the Island of Hawai'i. Escape to a tropical playground with saltwater lagoon, pools, waterslides and wildlife. 14 restaurants and bars include Legends of Hawai‘i Lu‘au and Kamuela Provision Company. Activities include the Dolphin Quest, tennis, golf and Kohala Spa.

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Hale Iki Cottage - One bedroom, one full bath, fully equipped home with kitchen & laundry
Kauai
17 Palms Kauai
414 Wailua Kai Street
Kapaa, HI 96746-9412
Summary

17 Palms Kauai is two vacation rental cottages in a garden setting named by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine as "One of the 20 perfect places to stay in Hawaii and #1 by Trip Advisor; Walk to Wailua Beach by foot path and many restaurants & shops.

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Wailea Grand Champions - A Destination Residence
Maui
Wailea Grand Champions Villas, A Destination Residence
155 Wailea Ike Place
Wailea, HI 96753
Summary

Select from 1-, 2- or 3-three bedroom suites with golf, garden or partial ocean views. These fully-equipped Maui vacation condos on the Wailea Blue Golf Course include free parking, wi-fi and phone calls, housekeeping, Concierge, $155 dining and spa credits and a Maika’i grocery discount card.

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Ko Olina Resort
Oahu
Ko Olina Resort
92-1480 Aliinui Drive
Kapolei, HI 96707
Summary

Ko Olina continues to set new standards for luxury vacation resorts with its mix of like-minded resort partners that include Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa; Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina; Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club; and the Beach Villas at Ko Olina.

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Ko'a Kea Hotel & Resort Overview
Kauai
Koa Kea Hotel & Resort
2251 Poipu Rd.
Koloa, HI 96756
Summary

Just named the #1 resort in Hawaii by Travel + Leisure, Ko'a Kea is a 121-room boutique oceanfront hotel on the south shore. This intimate and romantic resort offers the island’s closest guestrooms to the water, complemented by award-winning service that is both highly personalized and personable.

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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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