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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).
Maui’s newest dinner series, Hook + Knife, features a curated selection of signature dishes from the innovative culinary team at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Grounded in steakhouse classics, the Hook + Knife menu elevates these traditional favorites with a taste and local flair all its own.
A warm greenhouse-style restaurant offering Hawaii Regional Cuisine featuring fresh fish, local produce and inventive appetizers such as prized musubi topped with house made spam.
The breathtaking view sets the stage for a panorama of savory regional and hearty American meals, including fresh island fish, garden salads, sandwiches, pasta entrees, and their signature slavonic steak.
Huggo's is nestled in the heart of Kailua Kona and specializes in award-winning entrees like fresh island fish and beautiful sunsets. Reservations required. "Huggo's on the rocks" is the perfect setting for lunch or pupus & cocktails at the ocean's edge.
Overlooking the 18th hole of the exclusive Hualalai Golf Course, offering Pacific Club Cuisine for lunch and dinner daily.
With a direct view of the Pacific Ocean, Seaside Grill is perfect for lunch after a relaxing morning at the pool, a swim with the Dolphins, beach activities or a shopping excursion to Waikiki. Lunch is served at beachside tables, with views of the ocean and beach activity.
Oceanfront, outdoor restaurant and tropical bar featuring a menu of local favorites, noodles, burgers, and plate lunches. Catering also available. Fast and friendly tableside service in a relaxing atmosphere. Join us for lunch or dinner!
Oceanfront restaurant serving Hawaiian contemporary cuisine.
Enjoy Island-fresh steaks and seafood such as charred ahi, Bouillabaise, Filet Mignon and Surf & Turf while watching beautiful sunsets and whales from the lanai. Extensive wine-bar with over 40 wines by the glass. Live contemporary guitar music.
Ko offers cuisine reflective of the many cultures of Hawaii's sugarcane plantation era. The menu is inspired by the rich history and culinary traditions of Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese cultures.