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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Mamahunes 14
Kauai
Mamahune's
3-5920 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746
Summary

Mamahune’s is a retro-inspired tiki bar and restaurant that offers contemporary Hawaiian cuisine, handcrafted cocktails, and picturesque views of Kauai's Wailua Bay.

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Hook and Knife
Maui
Hook + Knife
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
One Ritz Carlton Drive
Kapalua, HI 96761
Summary

Maui’s newest dinner series, Hook + Knife, features a curated selection of signature dishes from the innovative culinary team at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Grounded in steakhouse classics, the Hook + Knife menu elevates these traditional favorites with a taste and local flair all its own.

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Kataifi and Macadamia Nut Encrusted Jumbo Black Tiger Prawns
Oahu
Chef Chai
1009 Kapiolani Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96814
Summary

Award winning Hawaii's regional cuisine. Home of Hawaii's best entertainers including the Brothers Cazimero, Jerry Santos and Jake Shimabukuro. Dine in a beautiful surrounding, and experience top rate service and Aloha at Chai's Island Bistro.

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Garden Room Lounge
Oahu
Tommy Bahama
298 Beachwalk Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Tommy Bahama is an island-inspired lifestyle brand that defines relaxed, sophisticated style in men's and women's sportswear, swimwear, accessories, and complete home furnishings collection. Hawaii has 8 retail stores and 3 restaurants.

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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.

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Oahu
Goma Tei Ramen
2330 Kalakaua Ave.
International Market Place 3rd Floor
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Local favorite ramen chain restaurants! For over 12 years, we server ramen noodles and rice bowls in five major malls in Hawaii. Every pot of our soup is made in-house and cooked for more than 20 hours before serving. We don't use concentrate!

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Manta at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Hawaii
Manta
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr
Kohala Coast, HI 96743-9706
Summary

Dinner at Manta is an occasion every night with a dynamic exhibition kitchen to showcase farm-fresh deliciousness with bold flavors to match stunning sunset and ocean views along with our 48-bottle wine selection via the Enomatic wine tasting experience.

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