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).
Clean, affordable, Waikiki deluxe condominium studio & 1 bedroom rentals. Discover hidden Waikiki. Steps to beach/zoo/Kapiolani Park or Ala Moana park. Waikiki Banyan 1 bedroom. Convertible 1-bedrooms center Waikiki. All secure buildings.
Start your vacation with Aloha! Arrange an airport lei greeting for your arrival in Honolulu, Maui, Kauai, or Hawaii Island. An airport lei greeting is the perfect beginning to your vacation, and it’s just a click away at LeiGreeting.com.
Discover the debut of a new and distinctive resort experience at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach featuring stylishly-appointed suites, incomparable ocean views and legendary service.
Cuvée owns and curates a collection of ultra-luxury villas & chalets in celebrated global destinations, including two private estates at the Four Seasons Hualalai. We create the world’s most elevated travel experiences by providing exceptionally tailored planning and singular, immersive experiences.
OHANA Waikiki Malia features renovated Malia Tower guest rooms, lobby and common areas, offering fresh surroundings in the heart of Waikiki. Hotel includes an IHOP restaurant and is conveniently located near shopping and dining on Kalakaua Avenue.
Some of the world’s best speakers live in Hawaii. We give inspirational keynotes, breakouts, and spouse programs on communication, change, stress management, diversity, customer service, team building, and leadership – all with the spirit of aloha.