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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Maui
Colonnade Café
2365 Kaanapali Parkway
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Enjoy your breakfast beside the soft tumbling of a waterfall, while watching ducks, swans, and flamingos at play in our lovely wildlife ponds. The Colonnade Cafe serves continental breakfast including fresh fruit, Danish pastries, bagels, muffins, fruit juice and smoothies.

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Maui
Teppanyaki Dan
Sheraton Maui Hotel
2605 Kaanapali Pkwy
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Japanese showmanship cooking prepared tableside by your personal chef. Feast on fresh seafood & sumptuous steaks prepared through a fusion of East and West. Stunning presentations and exquisite quality.

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Maui
Pailolo Bar & Grill
Summary

Enjoy casual sports bar-style dining with scrumptious fare such as delicious burgers, sandwiches and salads. It is the perfect place to catch live telecast of your favorite sports and unwind outdoors, amidst magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean and stunning sunsets. Happy Hour offered daily.

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Oahu
Pa'akai
57-091 Kamehameha Hwy
Kahuku, HI 96731
Summary

Pa'akai – or "sea salt" in the Hawaiian language, reflecting Hawaii’s numerous seaside salt beds – features sea-to-table cuisine. Pa'akai’s menu highlights the best in fresh local fish, farm-raised lobster, Kauai prawns, sea asparagus, seaweed and sea salt produced in Hawaii.

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Oahu
The Plumeria Beach House
5000 Kahala Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
Summary

Guests will enjoy Hawaii's beautiful sunshine and stunning coastal view at the Plumeria Beach House. The restaurant is bathed in warm, natural earth tones reminiscent of a comfortable island home, with indoor and outdoor terraces taking full advantage of breezy trade winds.

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Hawaii
Ainakai
78-128 Ehukai Street
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

At Ainakai, guests enjoy a tropical buffet breakfast, Island juices, fresh fruits and made-to-order specialty items enhanced with warm aloha service. Ala Carte options are also available.

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