Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii

Whale Watching

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Whale Watching in Hawaii

Just as our idyllic weather welcomes tourists from around the world, the warm and shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for kohola, or humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. They race more than 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii, then stay for a lengthy vacation, frolicking just off our shores and delighting spectators from December through May. 

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.   


Cultural Significance of Whales in Hawaii

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. 


What's the Best Way to See Whales?

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. 

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).

Whale Watching in Hawaii

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Learn from our Naturalists - Our naturlists share their knowledge and love of the ocean.
Hawaii
Kona Glassbottom Boat
75-5660 Palani Rd
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

ENJOY a comfortable and relaxing glass bottom boat cruise along Kona's beautiful coastline. DISCOVER spectacular colors of the island's underwater world. SEE unique tropical fish and colorful coral formations. LEARN about Hawaii's flora and fauna from onboard naturalists.

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Hawaii's Complete Pineapple Experience
Oahu
Dole Plantation
64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy
Wahiawa, HI 96786
Summary

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.

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The Great Ohana Hunt
Oahu
The Great Ohana Hunt
95-294 Kailiula Lp
Mililani, HI 96789
Summary

The Great Ohana Hunt is a fun, economical way to explore and tour Waikiki. This activity combines a scavenger hunt with local culture, historical facts and trivia relevant to Waikiki. Great for weddings, conventions, family and corporate gatherings.

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HWC Story Wall at the Hoopulama Science and Discovery Center
Hawaii
Hawaii Wildlife Center
Summary

The Hawai‘i Wildlife Center (HWC) is a state-of-the-art native wildlife hospital and rehabilitation center. The facility features a science and discovery center and retail store. Science center admission is free. Donations are welcome. Public hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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HPH Great Aloha Run Logo
Oahu
Great Aloha Run
418 Kuwili St, Ste 102
Honolulu, HI 96817-5364
Summary

The GAR, an 8.15-mile foot race, begins at Aloha Tower and finishes in the Aloha Stadium. There are divisions for elites, age groups, wheelchair and hand-cycle competitors, Sounds of Freedom (military running in formation) and those who just want to walk the course and socialize along the way.

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Ocean Sports
Hawaii
Ocean Sports Waikoloa
69-275 Waikoloa Beach Dr.
Waikoloa, HI 96738
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Hawaii's most complete beach and boat activities. Home of the world famous "Seasmoke" and luxurious "Alala" and Manu Iwa catamarans, offering Snorkel Cruises, Sunset Cocktail Cruises, Whale Watching, Glass Bottom Boat, SCUBA, kayaks, and beach day packages.

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