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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).
Pounders is a farm fresh island style restaurant serving fresh produce from island farms, Hawaii-raised grass-fed beef, locally caught seafood, savory delights from the Pacific Rim, and unique Hawaiian-style pizzas in their kiawe-fired brick oven imported from Napoli.
A tribute to legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku, this popular restaurant and barefoot bar offers fresh island fish, prime steaks, live Hawaiian entertainment and stunning ocean views.
Perched at the ocean’s edge overlooking famed Waikiki Beach, Hula Grill Waikiki presents diners with spectacular views of the beach and ocean. Open for breakfast and dinner daily plus lunch all weekend long.
Fine dining in a casual atmosphere, our buffet menu includes succulent prime rib, seafood, fresh island dishes and yummy desserts. Our Prime Rib Buffet is set in a stunning venue with beautiful murals welcoming all to our tropical paradise.
Waiolu Ocean Cuisine offers a seafood dinner menu from 6pm-10:30pm daily. Enjoy seafood items as well as fresh sushi including traditional nigiri & new wave maki sushi. Daily Happy Hour specials. The restaurant is also open for lunch from 11am-6pm. Comp 4-hr valet parking. Call 808.683.7456.
Leilani's offers premier oceanfront outdoor seating serving Hawaiian seafood, also steaks, chicken, and lighter fare.
Savor the flavor of P.F. Chang's. Chefs use wok cooking to create Asian inspired dining using only the freshest, high quality ingredients to create cuisine that is inventive with flavor that comes from the heart. Enjoy wine by the glass, tempting desserts served with local hospitality & free Wi-Fi.
Fleetwood’s On Front St. is recognized for its award winning menus, sophisticated yet casual atmosphere, breathtaking ocean and mountain views, expansive wine list and ever popular happy hour, wine tasting and live entertainment.
Enjoy a casual lunch, ice cold beer and libations on legendary Mauna Kea Golf Course at the clubhouse. Venue available evenings for special events.
The fresh flavours of Sydney's stylish surf bars meet the relaxed island vibe of Hawaii at Australian restaurateur Bill Granger's all day casual eatery. Enjoy joyful, barefoot-from-the-beach dining with a menu inspired by the local tropical produce.