Scroll to Continue
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).
Hawaiian Paddle Sports offers authentic, sustainable eco-tours that empower guests to discover a deeper appreciation of and connection to Hawaii’s marine environment. Guests can choose from private kayak, outrigger canoe, canoe surfing, whale watch, and snorkel tours, or take SUP or surf lessons.
SURF... SURF.... SURF.... We are a Premiere Local Hawaiian Professional Surf & Stand Up Paddle Company. We specialize in private beginner, intermediate, or advanced Surf lessons, SUP Paddle lessons and SUP-Surf lessons for individuals and small and large groups.
Poipu Beach Surf School is owned and operated by professional waterman and former pro bodyboarder Doug Muraoka. Poipu Beach Surf School is committed to providing each of its guests with safe, fun, friendly surfing experience. Poipu Beach Surf School teaches people how to surf at the Sheraton beach in Poipu
Daily "open range" rides over 11,000-acre working cattle ranch on historic Kohala Mountain. Lush pasture, native woods and spectacular views of the coastline and peaks. Marvel at the ancient Hawaiian ruins where King Kamehameha once trained his warriors.
Hawaii Islands only family owned and operated Native Hawaiian Surf School. Join our 'ohana of Lifeguards and watermen. Team HLSI is proud to offer the only surfing classroom on the island for students to practice surf skills, increasing the successful board stories before paddling out.
Dive Oahu offers the best scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling, and cruising experience around. Scuba with no experience! Scuba dive reefs, wrecks, and dive at night. Learn to surf on Waikiki beach! Cruise with Hawaiian sea life and view the Waikiki fireworks show! Dive Oahu has something for everyone.
Surf lessons at awesome Hanalei Bay! Sandy bottom, long rides. Recommended by Laird Hamilton for surf lessons while on Kauai. Our team utilizes both Hawaiian and Local Instructors, we give you an Indigenous experience, a real Hawaiian experience!
Beginner or expert riders will enjoy the pristine beauty of the secluded location. Up-close mountain views, lush botanicals. Picnic beneath a palm thatched hut and swim at a waterfall. No hiking required. An unforgettable horseback experience.