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).
Swim with wild dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat in Hawaii. Then enjoy ocean activities, including a 20-foot waterslide! Tour includes hula entertainment and a taro bun cheeseburger lunch. This dolphin encounter is an adventure you’ll never forget.
Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels.
The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani hotel sits in the heart of Waikiki. Facilities include specialty restaurants, a freshwater swimming pool, fitness center, a showroom and various meeting spaces, nightly poolside entertainment and daily arts and crafts.
This newly renovated European Style resort with a Hawaiian tropical flair delivers exceptional accommodations that will appeal to discerning travelers. It offers great amenities that include the state-of-the-art fitness center, outdoor pool, garden, sauna, and complimentary high-speed Internet.
OHANA Waikiki East is conveniently located in central Waikiki and features guest rooms and suites with kitchenettes and three restaurants. The full-service hotel is minutes from Waikiki Beach and adjacent to the International Market Place.
We create gentle, restorative skincare products, inspired by Hawaii’s lush, tropical landscape and native botanicals, infusing everything we do with the spirit of Aloha. Made with treasured island ingredients, our unique formulations are perfect for everyday use and gentle enough for any skin type.
Located above the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, The Laylow, Autograph Collection, is where midcentury modern style meets present-day Hawaiian charm-and they get along famously. Come hang out at our secluded oasis, where laying low is raised to an art form.
Relax and enjoy a swim in the lovely pool surrounded by palm trees, or take a five-minute walk to Kailua Beach. Close to Kailua's restaurants and shops. Air-conditioned rooms have sliding glass door entries, private baths and kitchenettes.