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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).
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.
Haleakala Bike Company Inc now does business as Bike Maui, Cruiser Phil Volcano Riders, and Haleakala Ecotours. We offer seven different tours for biking down the volcano. Bike Maui offers the "Self-Guided" tours and Cruiser Phil's offers the "Guided" tours.
Here is a great source of information about Kauai’s convenient Wailua to Kapaa region. This area is known for its abundant coconut palm trees, affordable lodging, many beach parks, Hawaii’s only navigable river, an extraordinary coastal bike path, a long list of restaurants, and lots of adventures.
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.
Overlooking the shimmering Pacific, The Westin Maui Resort & Spa on Ka’anapali Beach is the perfect island resort for an inspiring Hawaiian vacation. Its beachfront setting and aquatic playground appeals to honeymooners and families alike.
Select from 1-, 2- or 3-three bedroom suites with golf, garden or partial ocean views. These fully-equipped Maui vacation condos on the Wailea Blue Golf Course include free parking, wi-fi and phone calls, housekeeping, Concierge, $155 dining and spa credits and a Maika’i grocery discount card.
Located on the widest stretch of beach this is Waikiki’s only true oceanfront resort. The resort offers 22 lush acres with 5 pools, a refreshing salt water lagoon, a wide variety of shopping and dining, activities and Friday night fireworks.