Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii

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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Oahu
Surfer, The Bar
57-091 Kamehameha Hwy
Kahuku, HI 96731
Summary

First there was Surfer the magazine. Now there’s Surfer the bar – except it’s more than a bar, it’s a true original, located in the flashpoint of global surfing, Oahu’s legendary North Shore.

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Hawaii
Rays on the Bay
78-128 Ehukai Street
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
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At Rays on the Bay – the only oceanfront restaurant in the world with manta ray viewing – fresh local seafood, farm-to-table cuisine and handmade artisan pizzas come together with live music, romantic sunsets, a fun rum bar and fire pit lounges for a truly sumptuous experience.

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Oahu
Rum Fire
2255 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Our menu mixes the spicy hot sizzle of the Pacific Rim of Fire with the fresh, cool, tropical touches of Waikiki. Sip on a tropical rum drink, rediscover the art of conversation and enjoy some social comfort food.

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Oahu
Turtle Bay Golf
57-049 Kuilima Drive
Kahuku, HI 96731
Summary

Turtle Bay is situated along acres of majestic coastline on Oahu's North Shore. Though the area is primarily known for its spectacular surf, two legends of golf - Arnold Palmer and George Fazio - have boldly chosen to leave their indelible mark as well. With 36 holes of championship golf, two complete practice facilities with professional instruction, and a restaurant as identifiable with North Shore surf culture as Pipeline itself (Lei Lei's), Turtle Bay beckons you.

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Maui
Golf Hawaii
Summary

Mark Rolfing's Golf Hawaii is an all encompassing website: GolfHawaii.com hosted and curated by NBC/Golf Channel golf analyst Mark Rolfing. Log on to explore Mark’s recommendations for the best places to stay and play golf in Hawaii.

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Oahu
Swim
2424 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
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Enjoy cool beverages and light fare under sunny skies or just relax in the Jacuzzis or on the rocking chairs in the gentle tradewinds with fabulous views of Waikiki Beach. Enjoy nightly entertainment while sipping a Mai Tai.

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