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).
Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection is a luxury resort on the Big Island of Hawaii. Auberge Resorts Collection consists of hotels, residences and membership clubs in the United States, Europe, Mexico and other international destinations.
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.
Unique location overlooking Kamuela town, has an expansive view of the vocanoes Mauna Kea & Mauna Loa. A breathtaking view of the Kohala Coast & Pacific ocean. 15 minutes from best beaches. Next to Parker Ranch. Walking distance to shops and restaurants.
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.
Royal Sea Cliff Kona by Outrigger rises high above the sea on a dramatic lava rock bluff, offering panoramic views of the Kona coast of Hawaii Island. Large studios, one- and two-bedroom condominiums feature full kitchens, washer/dryer and airy balconies.
Historic Lodge near Volcanoes National Park. Romantic rooms & Cottages. Fireplaces. Award-winning restaurant. Gazebo, Hot Tub. Nestled on 10 acres. Conference/private dining room. Breakfast 7:30a-10a, Lunch 10a-2p, Pau Hana (Happy Hour) 2p-5p daily, Dinner nightly 5p-9p & Sunday Brunch 10a-2p.
The Volcano Rainforest Retreat is a boutique Bed & Breakfast on the Big Island of Hawaii offering a collection of 4 distinct guest cottages, created with elegant simplicity in harmony and balance with the Hawaiian rain forest, adjacent to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and charming Volcano Village.