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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).
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.
Swim alongside dolphins and snorkel through the clear waters of Oahu’s western shores with pods of 30 to 100 spinner dolphins. We’re taking you on an unforgettable journey to the sea, where you’ll learn about Hawaii’s culture, traditions, and ocean environment.
Swim with wild dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat on Oahu's west side, or enjoy the view from our boat. Then enjoy ocean activities and a gratis snack pack, as our crew entertains with hula and singing. Transportation from select Waikiki hotels available. Truly a lifetime experience.
Enjoy a one hour sail aboard the Kepoikai II Catamaran straight from the iconic Waikiki beach with breathtaking views of Diamond Head and the Honolulu skyline.
We are passionate about helping people better understand these animals and the negative misconceptions that can go along with them- ESPECIALLY SHARKS! Join us on our most popular dive (snorkel), and swim with an array of shark species!
We have tours and private cruises at the Kaneohe sandbar. We provide superb service with aloha for your special excursion. Join us to experience the beautiful sandbar and see the Ko'olau mountains from the ocean, swim with tropical fish and sea turtles!
Swim and snorkel with Hawaiian spinner dolphins, Hawaiian green sea turtles, and reef fish. Seasonal whale watching included. "Hawaii's Finest In-Water Dolphin Experience and Snorkel Adventure." Free underwater camera with every online reservation!
Located on the world famous Waikiki Beach Walk, An open air venue which features veranda seating and a blue wave bar for a truly unique dining experience featuring our world famous LEGENDARY Steak Burgers and Signature Cocktails. Live Music daily from 9am - 11am and 9pm - 11pm!
Expeditions, the Lahaina-Lanai Ferry, provides affordable service between Maui and Lanai, five times a day, every day! Packages are available for a day of championship golf, luxury accommodations, Jeep rental, 4X4 Trekker Tours, Archery, Sporting Clays.
Personalized wildlife ocean adventures. Dolphins, whales and snorkeling.