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).
Privately nestled against historic Black Rock promontory, Sheraton Maui is set amid 23 lush tropical acres on world famous Kaanapali Beach. The oceanfront resort offers 508 newly renovated guestrooms, exquisite dining, and spectacular water activities.
Ala Kukui is a cultural center for native Hawaiian spiritual and intellectual advancement. Our retreat space offers a unique opportunity to engage with our local community of cultural practitioners who pay respect to the environment through traditional Hawaiian practices.
Snorkel with dolphins, sea turtles, and a colorful array of tropical fish. explore the sea caves and lava arches of a hidden volcanic coastline or have a close encounter with humpback whales. Climb aboard a Blue Water Raft and let the adventure unfold.
Utilize the combined forces of Maui Tropical Plantation to create lasting memories in a timeless setting where old Hawaii meets new. The lush grounds and multiple venues of Maui Tropical Plantation provide the backdrop for the innovative culinary excellence of The Mill House and Maui Chef’s Table.
Resting beachfront amid 11 acres of tropical gardens in the heart of the Kaanapali Resort area, the resort has a water activity center, two newly-renovated pool areas, a poolside café and a free shuttle to Kaanapali Resort area shopping and activities.
Indulge your senses within this magnificent oceanfront resort offering luxuriously furnished studios and one-bedroom villas with Heavenly Beds and Baths, swimming pools, spa, kids club, restaurants, outdoor barbecue grills and fun activities.
Booking with Maui Activities Store is the easiest, least expensive and fastest way to plan your Maui vacation. Our knowledgeable staff has over 40 years combined experience assisting guests with booking Molokini snorkel tours, luaus, helicopter excursions and many more exciting Maui adventures.
Leilani is a custom crafted 50-foot Uniflite Power Vessel. Specially designed for Hawaii's oceans, she offers comfortable and spacious accommodations with a sheltered main cabin, excellent airflow, an observation deck, a large swim platform, a private restroom, and a freshwater shower.