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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).
Guests will enjoy Hawaii's beautiful sunshine and stunning coastal view at the Plumeria Beach House. The restaurant is bathed in warm, natural earth tones reminiscent of a comfortable island home, with indoor and outdoor terraces taking full advantage of breezy trade winds.
With a direct view of the Pacific Ocean, Seaside Grill is perfect for lunch after a relaxing morning at the pool, a swim with the Dolphins, beach activities or a shopping excursion to Waikiki. Lunch is served at beachside tables, with views of the ocean and beach activity.
The Island Buffet offers delicous food at affordable prices in a friendly family atmosphere. Selections include Barron of Beef, Kalua Pork, Herb and Panko Crusted Fish, tropical and fresh fruits, a salad bar selection and desserts. The Island Buffet is in the beautiful Gateway Dining facility.
Nationally renowned for classic steak house cuisine, featuring US Prime steaks, premium seafood & delectable vegetable menu items. The Ruth's Chris experience includes superior service & excellent wine selections. Voted "Best Steak House" on the Islands.
An oceanside restaurant, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a panoramic view of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach. Decorated with a profusion of colorful orchids, creative seafood specialties are presented in a setting which is informally elegant.
Pa'akai – or "sea salt" in the Hawaiian language, reflecting Hawaii’s numerous seaside salt beds – features sea-to-table cuisine. Pa'akai’s menu highlights the best in fresh local fish, farm-raised lobster, Kauai prawns, sea asparagus, seaweed and sea salt produced in Hawaii.