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).
Budget to deluxe no frill accommodations and tours. Camping, dorm, deluxe, 1BR and 2BR suites to suit groups and families. Our adventure to the summit of Mauna Kea are rated among world's best along with other eco-adventures such as Volcano National Park, Puna and Valleys and Waterfall Adventures.
Waikiki Marina Resort at the Ilikai is perfectly situated for exploring the beautiful island of Oahu. It provides easy access to Waikiki, one of the world's most beautiful beaches and Ala Moana Center. Its amenities include an outdoor swimming pool, spa, restaurant, fitness center and more.
A new luxury resort located in the 450-acre Hokuala community along the Pacific, Timbers Kauai combines authentic Hawaiian living with Timbers’ signature luxury amenities. All two- to four-bedroom oceanfront residences offer relaxed living with at least three private lanais and ocean views.
The first and only Relais & Châteaux property in Hawaii. Set in Wailea, the ultra-private luxury hotel is designed uniquely for couples. From its perch, 300 feet above sea level, guests enjoy dramatic ocean views and 15 lush acres of pathways through tropical gardens, waterfalls and koi ponds.
Hawaii's world-class visual and performing arts complex located on Maui offers arts education & Hawaiian cultural programs, music, dance and theater performances, art exhibits, movie screenings & special events plus dining area & catering kitchen.
Boutique bed & breakfast in the heart of Volcano Village. Hale Ohu offers three rooms with private entrances, complimentary continental breakfasts, parking, free Wi-Fi and spa-like bathrooms. The beautifully landscaped five-acre property has gardens and a tranquil Rainforest Walk to explore.
Since opening in 1956, Hotel Coral Reef has been part of life on the island of Kaua'i and our enviable beachfront location ensures you will enjoy beautiful, uninterrupted views and access to the breathtaking coastline of "'the garden island".