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).
Aqua Bamboo Waikiki is a peaceful hideaway that showcases the beauty of Hawaii’s multi-ethnic heritage. An outer sanctuary offers a relaxing deck with a pool, jet spa, cabana, and open-air restaurant. Aqua Bamboo Waikiki is located just 1½ blocks to the beach and near the city’s best attractions.
A luxury boutique Guesthouse in Captain Cook, South Kona on Hawaii Island, at the historic former home of artist and historian Herb Kawainui Kane. Situated on a 16-acre avocado farm with views from Kealakekua Bay to Honaunau.
Direct Oceanfront 3BR/3BA End unit Condo on the shoreline of Maui's beautiful west coast. Unobstructed PANORAMIC OCEAN VIEW & colorful sunsets. You will be awed by our incredible ocean view & location. Nicely upgraded & remodeled, well-maintained with everything you need for a memorable vacation.
Away from the hustle & bustle of Waikiki, discover a charming, boutique beachfront hotel. Ideally situated for action, recreation and romantic retreat, the hotel's name "Kaimana" means diamond, truly is a remarkable jewel in a perfect setting.
Embassy Suites by Hilton™ – Waikiki Beach Walk® is the all-suite resort in Waikiki. Hotel features one-and two-bedroom suites and complimentary amenities including daily made-to-order breakfast, evening reception with cocktails and snacks, high-speed Internet access and phone calls.
Oceanfront accommodations at Hale Kai Hawaii B&B with a spectacular view of the Pacific and Hilo Bay. Located in a peaceful area minutes from Hilo Town. Watch surfers, dolphins, and seasonal humpback whales while you enjoy a delicious breakfast.