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).
Explore Maui Nui’s ocean environment with the experts at Pacific Whale Foundation through PacWhale Eco-Adventures top-rated Whalewatches, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lanai and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises.
Enjoy articles, photos and video by local Maui residents. Maui Information Guide works hard to promote small local businesses & their unique activities, products & accommodations. Learn about the Road to Hana, weather, weddings, restaurants, beaches & more!
Ashlee is a Hawaii-loving Aussie. After clocking up over forty incredible trips to Hawaii she followed her heart and moved to Honolulu. She's a serial Hawaiian Island traveller, Airbnb Superhost in Waikiki and Founder of The Hawaii Admirer travel website. Her insider knowledge will help you dream about, plan and book your next Hawaii holiday!
Awarded "2006/2007 C.R.U.I.S.E. Tour of the Year" by Princess Cruises! Captain Zodiac is more than a snorkel tour; it’s a high-speed thrill ride adventure. See dolphins & whales, explore sea caves and see blowholes & unique lava formations.
The Island wedding of your dreams-personalized ceremonies in lush settings. Island-wide on Kauai. All associated services are available. Island Weddings & Blessings provides the most excellent and experienced service on Kauai.
Instant FREE Online Access to HAWAII TRAVEL BROCHURES and Information for Hawaii Activities, Tours, and Adventures, including sources for Hawaii Lodging and Accommodations and even Shopping for Made-in-Hawaii Gifts (including Koa Wood ). The Best of Hawaii at your fingertips, anyplace, anytime.
Simple Oahu Wedding is an Oahu wedding planner specializing in creating Oahu wedding packages that take the stress out of the wedding planning process. Using Oahu's best wedding vendors, we have crafted Honolulu wedding packages with the gorgeous elements you want in a dream destination wedding.
Lana'i Ocean Sports is committed to excellence by creating lifelong memories through personalized service delivered with Aloha. As stewards and sailors, we perpetuate our Hawaiian culture and protect our environment. As an ‘Ohana, we value each other and inspire integrity, innovation, and community.
Still & Moving Center is a local and global hub for mindful movement. Activities at Still & Moving Center are available in person and online! Call us to book corporate & private groups, private sessions & group classes, focused on wellness and Hawaiian culture.
Volcano Hawaii is one of Hawaii's best kept secrets! Home to a community of artists, scientists, farmers, & anyone who loves, peace, quiet, serenity and an authentic Hawaiian experience. In Volcano you can find events, dining, B&Bs, lodging, tours, artists & art, relaxing opportunities & exploring!