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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).
Beginner or expert riders will enjoy the pristine beauty of the secluded location. Up-close mountain views, lush botanicals. Picnic beneath a palm thatched hut and swim at a waterfall. No hiking required. An unforgettable horseback experience.
Billfish Poolside Bar & Grille offers casual, al fresco dining every day for lunch, dinner, & happy hour. Its poolside location is the perfect place to enjoy tropical drinks, tasty food, & ocean views. Plus, enjoy daily Happy Hour from 5 pm - 6 pm, including discounted domestic beers & appetizers!
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Hā: Breath of Life, is a stunning evening show featuring over 100 Polynesia performers, special effects, animation and surround sound. It is a story of passion, ignited by fire, song, and dance. This 90-minute, world-famous, award-winning show is a MUST see and truly an unforgettable experience.
Located steps away from Kā`anapali Beach Hotel's sunny shore, the new water activity center will bring Hawaiian culture to popular ocean activities such as surfing, stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling, conch shell blowing and more!
Kahi Ola Mau Farm is the home of Honoka'a Chocolate Co. Located just mauka of the historic plantation town of Honoka'a, we offer farm tours and tastings of the small-batch artisan chocolates that we make on-site in our farm store, made from cacao beans from around the globe, including Hawaii.
Explore and taste chocolate at our award-winning cacao farm near Hilo. See 1700 cacao trees, learn how we ferment and dry cacao beans, and view DIY chocolate making equipment. Then enjoy craft chocolate from our cacao made by multiple artisans. Tours are Thursdays (English) or Wednesdays (Japanese).
Mystery Maui Escape Room is a live, physical adventure game where players find clues in themed spaces to open locks and solve the mystery of the room within 60 minutes. It's an ideal indoor, rainy-day or late-night activity that is fun for couples, families or co-workers.