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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Legends of Kaanapali Luau - Legends of Kaanapali Luau
Maui
Legends of Kaanapali Luau
2525 Kaanapali Pkwy
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel extends their ho‘okipa by presenting The Legends of Kā‘anapali Lū‘au every Monday night in the heart of the hotel‘s Tiki Courtyard. You’ll be greeted with warm smiles by the friendly staff of the hotel, leading you to a scrumptious feast prepared by island-born chefs.

Surf Maui
Maui
Maui Surf Clinics
505 Front Street, Suite #201
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

We focus on the complete surfing experience. Lessons are available for beginning through advanced surfers with a special emphasis on safety and ocean awareness. Group and private surf lessons as well as specialized surf clinics.

Mission House at the Lyman Museum
Hawaii
Lyman Mission House And Museum
276 Haili Street
Hilo, HI 96720
Summary

This Smithsonian-affiliated Lyman Museum tells the story of Hawaii’s islands and people. Exhibits trace Hawaii’s history from its volcanic origins and the flora and fauna that arrived before humans to life in ancient Hawaii and the immigrant groups that helped shape Hawaii’s unique culture of today

The lush grounds
Maui
Maui Tropical Plantation
1670 Honoapiilani Hwy
Wailuku, HI 96793
Summary

Maui Tropical Plantation offers guests a chance to experience a unique side of Maui! Surrounded by over 500 acres of farmland, our inner property offers educational tours, zip lining​, a coffee roaster and cafe, retail shopping and the farm-driven Mill House Restaurant and Bar.

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Oahu
Makani Kai Helicopters
130 Iolana Place
Honolulu, HI 96819
Summary

Makani Kai Helicopters is Oahu's oldest, largest and best helicopter tour operator. Makani Kai features three main tours: a 30-minute, a 45-minute and a 60-minute tour of the island. We also feature an adventurous, 50-minute Doors Off flight for those wanting a more exciting experience.

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Oahu
PlacePass
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PlacePass is the world's largest and most powerful search engine for tours and activities in destinations around the globe. Our website helps travelers find the experiences that enrich their lives and relationships and makes booking easy and pleasant.

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