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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Kalulu
Lanai
Lana'i Ocean Sports
MANELE SMALL BOAT HARBOR
Lanai City, HI 96763
Summary

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.

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Adventure Boat
Oahu
The Adventure Boat
1651 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Escape the crowds and join us on private cruise you won’t soon forget. Go faster and farther than anyone else in town on a private charter for spectacular coastal sightseeing tours, incredible sea life (turtles, fish, dolphins, and whales—in season), and snorkeling. The adventure is up to you!

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Old Pali Road Whiskey
Oahu
Koʻolau Distillery
905 Kalanianaole Hwy Unit 5014
Kaneohe, HI 96734
Summary

Come experience our one-of-a-kind Hawaii distillery located in the foothills of the legendary Koolau mountains. Learn about the Koolau Distillery story and how we craft Old Pali Road Whiskey, one batch at a time with a narrated step-by-step guide by our knowledgeable whiskey aficionados.

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Splashdown at Waikiki Beach
Oahu
Holokai Catamaran
2169 Kalia Road
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Get soaking wet on the nets or kick back and relax on our comfortable main deck seating and watch everyone else get soaking wet. Snorkel with magical underwater sea life or drink like pirates as you take in a glorious Hawaiian Sunset. Join us where we board right off the sands of Waikiki.

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Maui - Wall of Tears
Maui
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
1 Kahului Airport Road
Hangar #105
Kahului, HI 96732
Summary

Every year since 1996, Frommer's Hawaii has called Blue Hawaiian, "The Cadillac of helicopter tour companies"—featuring the incredible, 21st-Century "ECO-Star" helicopter, superlative tours, award-winning customer service, and the world's finest pilots. Departures from Kahului.

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Splash Bar Seating
Oahu
Splash Bar
120 Kaiulani Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Splash Bar is the perfect place to unwind. Sip tropical drinks poolside and enjoy nightly entertainment under the stars. Choose from an appetizer and entree menu for lunch and dinner. Last call for cocktails is at 11:15pm.

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