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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).
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.
Hawaii Pacific Parks is a non-profit cooperating association working in partnership with the National Park Service in Hawaii and in American Samoa. Proceeds from our bookstores support interpretive and educational programs, research projects, publications, and cultural activities.
Enjoy a tranquil moment during your busy sightseeing schedule. Enjoy the lush gardens on the Laie Hawaii Temple grounds, then come inside the visitors' center to learn more about Jesus Christ and the purpose of temples. We also invite you to visit the nearby Polynesian Cultural Center.
At Pearl Harbor Tours we strive to be the most convenient, entertaining, personalized and safest tours on the road here in Hawaii so you can enjoy a stress-free experience visiting Oahuʻs top attractions. Our small group tours of 12 passengers or less will make you feel part of our ohana. Join Us.
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Explore Kauai's spectacular coastlines and wilderness areas in the safety and comfort of our custom designed AStar and Hughes 500 helicopters. Our expert pilots describe the history, geology, and native ecosystems that make Kauai so extraordinary!
Kahilu Theatre Foundation raised its curtain in 1981 as a 490-seat Broadway Stage. Today, in addition to presenting a full season of world-class performances, we offer quality art exhibits from emerging and established visual artists and develop accessible performing arts programs for students of all ages.
Queen Emma Summer Palace or Hānaiakamalama, served as a summer retreat for Queen Emma of Hawai‘i, her husband King Kamehameha IV, and their son, Prince Albert Edward. It is now a historic landmark, museum, and tourist site preserved by the Daughters of Hawai‘i.