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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).
Kukui Grove Center and Kukui Marketplace is Kauai’s largest lifestyle center destination. The 50-acre open-air Center features over 50 stores and restaurants.
Enjoy the best Kauai water adventures and most exclusive parts of Kauai. Kayak to remote areas of Wailua and Hule'ia Rivers. Hike jungle trails through valleys to secluded pools and waterfalls on private Kipu Ranch or the magnificent Wailua River State Park.
Located steps away from Kaanapali Beach Hotel's sunny shore, Hale Huakai, the ocean activities center, brings Hawaiian culture to popular beach activities such as stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling, conch shell blowing and more!
Waikiki Beach Services was established in 1955 and is the longest running surf school in Waikiki.
Kilohana Plantation is a historic landmark and premier visitor attraction offering visitors and locals a glimpse into Kauai’s past combined with assorted island-style activities, dining and shopping.
Lydgate Farms is run by our fifth generation Kaua’i family. We grow high-quality cacao to make the finest craft chocolate. We also raise award-winning vanilla and honey.
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Take a Fun Filled Wagon Ride through one of Oahu's most Beautiful Farms and learn about the history, people and crops of this special place! Visit our Farm Café for Fine Country Gifts, Fresh Island Fruit and Tasty Treats from our Fields!
Get lost in the 2008 world's largest maze (as featured in the Guinness Book of World Records). Take a ride on the Pineapple Express train and stroll through the Plantation Garden Tour and learn about the history of pineapple and agriculture in Hawaii.
An incredible luau experience on Oahu's beautiful east shore! Award-winning entertainment, food, and admission to iconic Sea Life Park included!