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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Don the Beachcomber Restaurant View
Hawaii
Don The Beachcomber
75-5852 Alii Drive
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

The open-air Don the Beachcomber signature restaurant located at the Royal Kona Resort features a prime oceanfront setting with spectacular sunset views. Choose from succulent Pacific Fusion, Prime Rib and seafood specialties.

Hau Tree at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Hawaii
Hau Tree
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr
Kohala Coast, HI 96743
Summary

Enjoy time out of the sunshine relaxing oceanside at Hau Tree. Enjoy lunch and Mauna Kea's famous and refreshing Ovaltine Froth. Catch sunset at the Gazebo Bar with our signature drink, the Fredrico, in hand. Join us Saturdays for the Mauna Kea Clambake.

Main Dining Room
Oahu
Morton's The Steakhouse
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96814
Summary

First opened our doors on State Street in 1978 and now welcomes guests to our 74 worldwide locations. Morton's prides itself on quality and consistency featuring USDA prime-aged steak, fresh seafood, hand-picked produce, delicious appetizers and decadent desserts.

Ocean Terrace
Hawaii
Ocean Terrace
62-100 Kaunaoa Drive
Kohala Coast, HI 96743
Summary

Begin your Hawaii Island mornings at our casual open-air ocean view breakfast buffet or enjoy the extensive a la carte menu. Each Friday evening indulge in a celebration of seafood at Ocean Terrace with an all-you-can-eat "Let's Go Crabbing" buffet.

Poached Kumamoto Oysters on baby leek, hudson valley foie gras, ikura
Oahu
Chef Mavro Restaurant
1969 S. King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826
Summary

Experience flavors of Hawaii in this AAA Five Diamond rating, Gayot 18/20 & Top 40 Restaurants; fine dining; romantic; food & wine pairings, farm-to-table cuisine; James Beard award winner George Mavrothalassitis, founding member Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Star Pastry Chef Jose Calpito.

Red Salt Dining Room
Kauai
Red Salt
2251 Poipu Road
Koloa, HI 96756
Summary

Red Salt’s diverse menu by acclaimed Executive Chef and Kauai native Noelani Planas celebrates fresh Hawaiian seafood and produce in a casual, yet sophisticated seaside atmosphere.

Baby Manta Rays.
Hawaii
Wahine Charters
73-1073 Ahikawa St
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Wahine Charters is the number one snorkel tour company in Kona. We specialize in small groups of 14 or less. It is our goal to find Hawaii's magnificent wild dolphins, Humpback Whales & Manta Rays. Our guest comfortably cruise on our 29' US Coast Guard Certified vessel. Family owned & operated.

La Mer Table Setting
Oahu
La Mer
2199 Kalia Rd
Honolulu, HI 96815-1988
Summary

Exquisite Neoclassic French Cuisine in an elegant oceanfront setting. Celebrated as Halekulani's finest and Hawaii's longest, consecutively ranked AAA Five Diamond Restaurant & only Forbes Five Star Restaurant, this consummate dining experience is unmatched.

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