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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).
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!
Hawaii Tourism Authority's 2006 Keep It Hawaii Koa Award winner. Specializing in cultural & ecological/nature tours for affinity, family and educational groups in Hawaii since 1989. CMP with spousal & destination management services available.
Since 1985, UFO Parasail has been bringing exciting ocean activities to the islands. UFO Parasail utilizes state-of-the-art winch boats to float you on and off the back of the boat for safe, dry landings.
Educational tour of the native plants, history of the sugarcane plantation and architectural history of the mansion. Conducted by the owner Ms. Leona Wilson.
This 4-time Grammy Award winning weekly concert series is hosted by Hawaii’s Renaissance Man, George Kahumoku Jr., and Maui sensation, Da Ukulele Boyz (Peter deAquino & Garrett Probst). Young guitarist, Sterling Seaton, also joins the show’s final jam session.
At Rays on the Bay – the only oceanfront restaurant in the world with manta ray viewing – fresh local seafood, farm-to-table cuisine and handmade artisan pizzas come together with live music, romantic sunsets, a fun rum bar and fire pit lounges for a truly sumptuous experience.
Located in the Rainbow Tower® Tuesday - Saturday 5:00pm - 10:00pm Live Music on Friday & Saturday from 6:00 pm-9:00 pm
Kona Brewing Company's waterfront Koko Marina restaurant serves innovative entrees of local beef and fish, gourmet pizzas, pupus, sandwiches, salads and desserts. All of the brewery's fresh craft beers are available, including several pub exclusives.
Noa Noa presents a profusion of patterns and colors in traditional Hawaiian, Pacific Island Tapa, and ethnic designs from around the world. Unique hand-batiked clothing, for men and women, are available only in Hawaii and online exclusively at Noa Noa. Established 1980. Locally owned and designed.
Intimate club-like lounge, Live entertainment featuring standard classics Tuesday through Saturday 9pm to 12:30am. Cocktails, appetizers and desserts served nightly from 8:30pm to 1am. Validated parking.