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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).
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Destination Residences Hawaii offers an exclusive collection of premium vacation residences in beachfront and golf-front resorts in Wailea and Makena on the island of Maui. Come share our aloha, genuine Hawaiian hospitality and authentic Maui experiences.
Beachfront hotel with complete kitchens and daily continental breakfast.
Hawaii's only luxury all-suite and villa resort, located on 22 oceanfront acres. Four restaurants, Willow Stream Spa and complimentary fitness center. Golf, tennis facilities and business center also available.
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This limited service con-tel was completely restored in 2018. The 52 individually owned studios and 1 bedroom units vary widely in style. They are uniquely furnished with many options to choose from. All rooms feature private lanai’s, ceiling fans and usual cool northeast trade winds. All rooms also come with fully appointed customized kitchens and bathrooms for your convenience.
Island-hop to Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Hawaii by small boat cruise. Watch marine life; “talk story” with locals; and spend time at play—kayak, paddle board, hike, snorkel. It's all included in your fare. 36 guests; 7 nights; year-round departures. Unrushed. Uncrowded. Unbelievable.
Situated on 16 acres of Maui's North Kaanapali Beach, The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas is designed to provide a relaxing haven complete with culturally inspired programs and authentic Hawaiian experiences.