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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. It's like swimming in a giant aquarium, but staying dry the whole time!
As America’s original and most award-winning zipline company, Skyline Hawaii has hosted thousands of eye-opening and memory-making eco-adventures from thrilling zipline tours over 250-foot waterfalls, to sunrises near Haleakalā’s peak to the illuminating Road to Hana tour.
Valley Isle Excursions takes you on one of the most breathtaking drives on earth down the road to Hana Maui. Spectacular cliffs, bamboo jungles, hawaiian waterfalls, tropical scenery and colorful fragrant flowers are part of our "Heavenly Hana" tour.
The Lana'i Culture & Heritage Center, a community museum, seeks to inspire people to be informed, thoughtful and active stewards of their heritage.
Haleakala Ecotours is an authorized concessionaire for Haleakala National Park. We provide Sunrise, Daytime, and Sunset tours of Upcountry Maui and Haleakala National Park as well as Hana tours.
Home to a vibrant variety of 90 fine shops and restaurants and a renowned whale museum, Whalers Village is located on beautiful Kaanapali Beach and has the distinction of being Maui's premier ocean front shopping destination. Free Hawaiian entertainment.
The Outlets of Maui are the only outlets in the world on the oceanfront in a historic resort location. The center serves the shopping needs of local residents and the island's 2.9 million annual westbound and eastbound visitors.
Hawaii's Largest selection of Hawaiian fashions, gifts and souvenirs; Travel agent and Group discounts; open 365 days, available in Oahu, Maui, Big Island and Kauai.
We are a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the revitalization of one of Maui's ancient Hawaiian fishponds.
Moana Glass is Maui's premier glassblowing studio and gallery. We offer the finest glass art made anywhere in the world and the unique experience of learning about glassblowing first-hand, while you make your own perfect Maui souvenir.