Scroll to Continue
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).
Explore Maui Nui’s ocean environment with the experts at Pacific Whale Foundation through PacWhale Eco-Adventures top-rated Whalewatches, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lanai and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises.
Set oceanfront along Kauai's Coconut Coast guests enjoy newly remodeled guestrooms and public areas, new pool deck and hot tub, and a variety of amenities including nightly entertainment, complimentary yoga, bicycle rental, and more. Dine on the sand at award-winning Lava Lava Beach Club.
This boutique hotel offers style in a convenient location just 2 short blocks to Waikiki Beach, and near the International Market Place. Hotel Renew offers elegant guest rooms with an intimate atmosphere. Amenities include WiFi internet access, daily continental breakfast and a daily happy hour.
Immerse yourself in a true Hawaiian experience at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, a AAA Five-Diamond beachfront resort. Cultural and environmental appreciation combined with world-class service and facilities deliver a true escape.
Your Maui retreat starts here at the island’s newest Adults Only boutique resort. Just steps away from the beautiful five-mile white sand beach, Mai Poina ‘Oe la’u, Kohea Kai Resort is the perfect place to relax on the southwest shore of Maui. Enjoy FREE breakfast daily from 6:30-9:30am.
On 3 tropical acres, this historic 48-unit plantation resort is 3 miles from airport by Kalapaki Beach. Access to golf, fishing, surfing, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, shops and dining. Comp continental breakfast.
Nestled among pristine fairways and lava rock fields within the tropical haven of Waikoloa on Hawaii’s Big Island. Spacious two-bedroom suites exude comfort and style with all the conveniences of home.
On the southernmost point of Kauai, oceanfront all-suite condominium consists of beautifully furnished one, two and three bedroom units. Swimming pool, sundeck, hydro-spa, tennis court and barbecue area. Walking distance to beautiful sandy beaches.
MauiAccommodations.com is the leading resource for hotels, condos, and rental-by-owner accommodations on Maui. One-of-a-kind places to stay! Vacation rentals, homes, b&bs, condos, hotels, resorts. FREE monthly enewsletter with exclusive Maui deals. Blog with travel tips from a local Maui resident.
Perched high atop the lush, emerald cliffs that line Kauai's North Shore, this rejuvenating retreat is the perfect place to savor refreshing Pacific breezes while gazing at the sparkling ocean that lingers beyond the island's breathtaking bluffs.