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).
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.
Embassy Suites by Hilton™ – Waikiki Beach Walk® is the all-suite resort in Waikiki. Hotel features one-and two-bedroom suites and complimentary amenities including daily made-to-order breakfast, evening reception with cocktails and snacks, high-speed Internet access and phone calls.
A relaxing beachfront retreat on the western shore of Oahu offering spacious guestrooms, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom villas. Villas feature fully equipped kitchens, living and dining areas, master bedrooms and baths and private balconies or patios.
The family-friendly complex is made up of over 870 privately owned one-bedroom condos – allowing you to enjoy the comforts of home at a resort-like facility. Enjoy going to the beach, swimming in the large heated fresh water pool, soaking in one of the two Jacuzzis or the sauna, or simply relaxing.
Experience all the excitement of Waikiki from one incredible location. Steps from the azure blue waters and soft sands of Waikiki Beach, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa offers magnificent personalized services, private lanais, and luxurious amenities.
Introducing Aulani, DISNEY VACATION CLUB Villas, Ko Olina, Hawai`i. Overlooking the crystal-blue Pacific, the magic of Disney comes to life at this premier vacation destination. Accommodations include Deluxe Studios, 1-, 2-, and 3-Bedroom Villas.