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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Wailea Elua Village Lanai View
Maui
Wailea Elua Village - A Destination Residence
3600 Wailea Alanui
Check in with Destination Residences Hawaii 34 Wailea Gateway Place, Suite A102
Wailea, HI 96753
Summary

In the heart of Wailea on popular Ulua Beach, enter into a serene paradise of manicured lawns and gardens with two pools, jetspa, paddle tennis, golf putting green and pavilion. Each one- to three-bedroom feature living/dining area, full kitchen and spacious outdoor lanai with personal BBQ grill.

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Cabins, 2 BR / 2 BA each
Maui
Ala Kukui Hana Retreat
4224 Hana Highway
Hana, HI 96713
Summary

Ala Kukui is a cultural center for native Hawaiian spiritual and intellectual advancement. Our retreat space offers a unique opportunity to engage with our local community of cultural practitioners who pay respect to the environment through traditional Hawaiian practices.

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Royal Kona Resort Aerial
Hawaii
Royal Kona Resort
75-5852 Alii Drive
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

This oceanfront Resort offers spacious rooms featuring large lanais with beautiful mountain or ocean views, a private swimming lagoon and sandy beach area, oceanfront pool, and Luau show. Dine at the signature Don the Beachcomber Restaurant and Mai Tai Bar.

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Waikoloa Village, HI - Paniolo Greens, Exterior
Hawaii
Paniolo Greens
68-1745 Waikoloa Road
Waikoloa, HI 96738
Summary

This Big Island resort is minutes from the white sand beaches of the Kohala Coast and Hapuna Park with tons of fun on-sit, including a swimming pool, spa, fitness center, and more. Enjoy the deep blue waters of the Pacific, lush rain-forests, otherworldly lava flows, world-class golf, and shopping.

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Kalaekilohana Inn and Retreat Frontal View
Hawaii
Kalaekilohana
94-2152 South Point Rd
Naalehu, HI 96722
Summary

Hawaii's Only Culturally Appropriate Locally Sourced Luxury Inn. TripAdvisor's Traveler's Choice Award Winner-Top 25 small Hotel in the U.S. for 3 consecutive years. Complimentary gourmet breakfasts plus evening meal options nightly. A great central location for the southern half of Hawaii Island.

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3445 Wilcox Road
Kauai
Garden Island Inn
3445 Wilcox Road
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

Ranked #1 on Trip Advisor Lihue Hotels 5 years in a row. Our wonderful local, ACCOMMODATING staff will welcome and treat you with friendly KAUAI OHANA ALOHA! We do EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to make YOU feel welcome and assist you with making your visit special.

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Prince Kuhio Condos
Kauai
Prince Kuhio Condos
5061 Lawai Rd.
Koloa, HI 96756
Summary

Prince Kuhio Condos offers vacation rental condominiums of 3 sizes and is located on the sunny south shore in Poipu about 30 yards from the ocean. Our condos have 2 great beaches out front and easy walking to shopping and restaurants. You can hear and see the ocean from most of the units.

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Exterior 1
Lanai
Hotel Lanai
828 Lanai Avenue
Lanai City, HI 96763
Summary

Hotel Lanai is an island landmark in the heart of Lanai City. Recently renovated in 2018, the hotel features modern, stylish accommodations and amenities for travelers seeking a quiet retreat on Lanai.

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