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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Loko Ea
Oahu
Malama Loko Ea Foundation
P.O.Box 553
62-540 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712
Summary

Loko Ea is a 400-year-old fishpond in heart of Haleiwa. The Holole'a tour is a cultural based experience where you and your families can participate in activities that include fishing, a walking tour, and a chance to give back to the land through restoration of the pond. Mahalo nui for your support.

Websites
Iolani Palace
Oahu
Iolani Palace
364 South King St.
Honolulu, HI 96813
Summary

A Hawaiian national treasure and the only official state residence of royalty in the United States, Iolani Palace was the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom's last two monarchs.

Websites
Waikiki Aquarium Logo
Oahu
The Waikiki Aquarium
2777 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Admission prices: $12 Adults, $5 Children (4-12), FREE Children 3 & under, $8 Kamaaina, $8 Active Duty Military, $5 Seniors(65+), $5 persons with disabilities, FREE Fowa Members. 2019 marks the 115th anniversary of the aquarium making the Waikiki Aquarium the 2nd oldest in the United States

Websites
Silver Falls Ranch
Kauai
Silver Falls Ranch
2888 Kamookoa Road
Kalihiwai Ridge
Kilauea, HI 96754
Summary

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.

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Adventure Boat
Oahu
The Adventure Boat
1651 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Escape the crowds and join us on private cruise you won’t soon forget. Go faster and farther than anyone else in town on a private charter for spectacular coastal sightseeing tours, incredible sea life (turtles, fish, dolphins, and whales—in season), and snorkeling. The adventure is up to you!

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Whale watching
Oahu
Wild Side Specialty Tours
87-1002 Hakimo Place Unit C.
Waianae Small Boat Harbor
Waianae, HI 96792
Summary

Oahu's only marine-biologist founded and led ocean wildlife tours. Small group (6-10 passengers) charters include year-round whale watching, swimming with dolphins, and snorkeling with giant sea turtles and endemic tropical reef fish. Portion of proceeds donated to marine conservation orgs.

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Learn More About The Cultural Significance Of Whales in Hawaii

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