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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).
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.
An inclusive exploration aboard a 36-guest ship of the islands of Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Hawaii. Watch marine life; “talk story” with locals; enjoy exclusivity; and spend time at play—kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, and snorkeling.
Holua Resort at Mauna Loa Village offers spacious one-, and two-bedroom villas featuring private lanais and stunning views. Enjoy eight sparkling swimming pools, hot tubs, eleven world-class tennis courts, a fitness center, on-site activities and more.
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Affordable, comfortable, small cottage "just for two" guests in South Kohala minutes to beaches. Peaceful, intimate, place near to swim, snorkel, scuba dive, hike, horse-ride, dine, shop, star gaze, whale watch. Generous amenities. Minimum stay is 5 nights 7 nights @ 10% off (except major holidays).
Designed in the style of an 1880's Hawaiian village. Palm thatched roofs, rustic bungalows and paths lie amidst flower and fruit bearing trees, palms and tropical vegetation. It is an easy walk or drive to Kailua-Kona Village, ocean activities and exciting night life.
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