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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).
Kipu Ranch Adventures, located on the lush island of Kauai, is proud to be one of the top eco-tours in Hawaii. We enable visitors and residents alike to discover the rich history, landscape and legends that make Kauai activities unique. Come out and join us for a tropical 4x4 off road adventure.
Explore Maui Nui’s ocean environment with the experts at Pacific Whale Foundation through PacWhale Eco-Adventures top-rated Whalewatches, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lanai and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises.
Beautiful plantation style setting. Great steak and seafood menu. Scenic outside seating. Excellent service. Super value.
Joey's Kitchen has two locations, The Whaler's Village Food Court, in Kaanapali Beach, & Napili Plaza, in Upper West Maui. Featuring amazing Island Cuisine / Filipino Fusion in Paradise!
This barista bar has everything from 100-percent Kona Coffee to morning lattes and elevated grab and go selections. In the afternoon and evenings, Piko Coffee+Bar is the place to connect, lounge or relax with an island beverage while enjoying panoramic resort views.
Pounders is a farm fresh island style restaurant serving fresh produce from island farms, Hawaii-raised grass-fed beef, locally caught seafood, savory delights from the Pacific Rim, and unique Hawaiian-style pizzas in their kiawe-fired brick oven imported from Napoli.
Authentic Japanese food in an ocean-view setting. Choose between Western or traditional tatami (sit-down) style service. Outstanding kaiseki menus available.
Leilani's offers premier oceanfront outdoor seating serving Hawaiian seafood, also steaks, chicken, and lighter fare.
Welcome to Kauai’s first Gastropub!! We are a family owned business which specializes in bringing comfort food to a whole new level.
Gunstock Ranch, home of Oahu's first Hawaiian Legacy Forest, is a 45-year old family owned horse and cattle ranch. Come explore and learn about Hawaii as well as give back by planting and dedicating a tree. Adventure options include horseback riding and off-road vehicles, hiking and walking tours.