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

Whale Watching

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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

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Hawaii
Atlantis Submarines Kona
Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel
75-5660 Palani Road #304
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels. It's like swimming in a giant aquarium, but staying dry the whole time!

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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.

Websites
Carthaginian
Maui
Atlantis Submarines Maui
658 Front Street, Suite 175
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels. It's like swimming in a giant aquarium, but staying dry the whole time!

Websites
Submerging
Oahu
Atlantis Submarines
Beachfront Ticket Office
Hilton Hawaiian Village 2005 Kalia Road
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels.

Websites
Dolphin Encounter
Oahu
Sea Life Park Hawaii
41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy
Waimanalo, HI 96795
Summary

With a focus on conservation and education, this East Oahu attraction is a great place to meet dolphins, sea lions, green sea turtles, rays, native fish and more. It's small enough to enjoy on foot, yet diverse enough to be a full-day attraction, and is also home to the top rated luau on Oahu.

Websites
Legends of Kaanapali Luau - Legends of Kaanapali Luau
Maui
Legends of Kaanapali Luau
2525 Kaanapali Pkwy
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel extends their ho‘okipa by presenting The Legends of Kā‘anapali Lū‘au every Monday night in the heart of the hotel‘s Tiki Courtyard. You’ll be greeted with warm smiles by the friendly staff of the hotel, leading you to a scrumptious feast prepared by island-born chefs.

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Kitty heaven
Lanai
Lanai Cat Sanctuary
1 Kaupili Road
LANAI CITY, HI 96763
Summary

More than 600 cats call us home. As a nonprofit, we rely on donations to make lifelong care possible for our Lanai Lions. Our rescue work saves cats, protects endangered birds and reduces cat overpopulation. Open daily from 10am-3pm. No appointment is required. Learn more at lanaicatsanctuary.org

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Hula at the Center
Oahu
Still & Moving Center
1024 Queen St.
Honolulu, HI 96814
Summary

Still & Moving Center is the most comprehensive mind body movement center in Honolulu. An international training facility, we offer corporate or private, wellness & Hawaiian cultural packages and retreats, movement classes/workshops/performers, personalized coaching and bodywork services.

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