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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).
Overlooking Hilo Bay, Coconut Island, and Mauna Kea mountain. Queen's Court Dining Room serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Features American - International flair cuisine. Wai'oli Lounge. Hilo Hawaiian Bakery.
Hawaii's largest craft brewery, distributed in Hawaiian Islands, throughout mainland U.S., Japan. Restaurants on Big Island and Oahu serve craft beer and innovative, local cuisine. Outdoor & indoor air-conditioned seating. Extensive retail.
Featuring succulent cuts of beef, tender free-range game and fresh island seafood, the ocean side Beach Tree Bar & Grill offers exceptional grilled items in a relaxed setting. Specialty nights include the signature Surf, Sand and Stars Barbecue buffet.
Enjoy Island-fresh steaks and seafood such as charred ahi, Bouillabaise, Filet Mignon and Surf & Turf while watching beautiful sunsets and whales from the lanai. Extensive wine-bar with over 40 wines by the glass. Live contemporary guitar music.
Kahakai means beach in Hawaiian, and this thatched-roof bar is loads of fun and just steps from The Fairmont Orchid's beautiful white sand beach. Order at the bar, or from a server who will bring drinks and pupus to your cabana.
Choose from a wide selection of healthy refreshments, a quick, satisfying snack for the family, a Cup-o-Kimo freshly brewed coffee for yourself, or relax and enjoy the scenery and a refreshing cocktail as the resort's canal boats glide quietly by.