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).
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.
Awarded "2006/2007 C.R.U.I.S.E. Tour of the Year" by Princess Cruises! Captain Zodiac is more than a snorkel tour; it’s a high-speed thrill ride adventure. See dolphins & whales, explore sea caves and see blowholes & unique lava formations.
Immerse yourself in a true Hawaiian experience at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, a AAA Five-Diamond beachfront resort. Cultural and environmental appreciation combined with world-class service and facilities deliver a true escape.
With a prime beach front location on Polo Beach, relish the blissful view and lull of the ocean waves from every two-bedroom condo, featuring living room, dining area, kitchen and private lanai. Enjoy the pool, jetspa, BBQ grills or herb garden; with nearby entry to the scenic Wailea Coastal Walk.
This oceanfront resort combines the comfort & convenience of a condominium with hotel-caliber services. Aston Ka’anapali Shores rests on 10 acres of tropical gardens. Resort offers a restaurant, spa, fitness center, BBQ grills, tennis & pickle ball courts, shuffle boards, 2 heated pools & jet spas.
This condominium resort is ideally located across from Kamaole Beach Park. Offers a variety of accommodations from hotel rooms to 3 bedroom suites. Access to swimming pools, outdoor bbq grills, tennis courts, and close to golf and the beach. Popular for families/large parties.
Hawaii's Premier Small Hotel in the Country. Locally Sourced and Culturally Appropriate. TripAdvisor's Top 25 Small Hotel in the U.S. for 3 consecutive years. Complimentary breakfast and evening meal options nightly. A great central location for the southern half of Hawaii Island.
Ekahi Village- Beachfront low rise condominium village with Beach Pavilion, 4 Pools, Paddle Tennis & Shuffle Board on 34 acres. It sits on a mile-long sandy beach with beautiful sunsets, were you can walk to the Hotels for a Meal or luau. Discounts with Wailea Golf & Tennis clubs too!