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

Whale Watching

Scroll to Continue

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

Filter Results
showing 1 - 10 of 174
Maui Ocean Center
Maui
Maui Ocean Center
192 Maalaea Rd
Wailuku, HI 96793
Summary

Immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of Hawaii’s marine life at Maui Ocean Center, The Aquarium of Hawaii. Encounter schooling reef fish, sharks, stingrays, turtles, and experience the world's first virtual encounter with Hawaii's humpback whales in the Humpbacks of Hawaii Exhibit & 3D Sphere.

Delta Vacations
Oahu
Delta Vacations
700 South Central Avenue
Department 468
Atlanta, GA 30354
Summary

Delta Vacations offers convenient, affordable vacations that combine Delta Air Lines® or Delta's codeshare partner flights with hotel stays, rental car, sightseeing and entertainment, escorted tours, and more.

Hawaiian Travel Hyatt Kauai
Maui
Hawaiian Travel, Inc.
5005 West Royal Lane
Suite 294
Irving, TX 75063
Summary

Certified Hawaii Master Specialists who will custom design your dream Hawaii vacation. Work one-on-one with your personal Hawaii expert with over 25 years experience in Hawaii only vacation planning. Receive more value for your vacation dollars by contacting Hawaiian Travel today.

Apple Vacations
Oahu
Apple Vacations
Summary

With Apple Vacations, you’ll have complete flexibility to create your ideal vacation. Relax on one island or create a multi-island vacation and discover the unique characteristics of each. Combine whatever you desire and design your perfect getaway.

Spago by Wolfgang Puck at The Four Seasons Resort Maui
Maui
Wolfgang Puck's Spago
3900 Wailea Alanui
Wailea, HI 96753
Summary

At Spago in the Four Seasons Resort Maui, guests will enjoy a sunset and evening that is guaranteed to remember. Whether you are planning an intimate affair or a gala event, Spago offers versatile private dining. The private dining room or entire restaurant is available for your special occasion.

Cliff HOUSE
Maui
Cliff House
1 Bay Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Originally built in 1940, Kapalua’s Cliff House was once a facility for the managers of the historic Honolua Plantation. Now operated by Montage Kapalua Bay, Cliff House has been completely renovated and is now used as a historic and unparalleled venue for private events on Maui.

Pages

Learn More About The Cultural Significance Of Whales in Hawaii

Read More

Learn About Ocean Safety in Hawaii

Find out More