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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).
Friendly, cheery, clean and air conditioned, Molokai Pizza Cafe serves fresh oven pizzas, deli fresh subs and a wide variety of island favorite dinners and specials.
Sea Dogs at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa is a convenient spot to pick up a snack on your way to the pools or the beach. Here you'll find hot dogs, pizza, soft drinks, shave ice and a variety of light snacks. Open daily, the grab-and-go place is located beachfront, along Ka’anapali Beachwalk.
Kani Ka Pila Grille, located pool-side at the newly renovated Outrigger Reef on the Beach, serves lunch, dinner and tropical drinks daily, but its real draw is the top-notch live entertainment by some of Hawaii’s greatest island musicians, new local talent and island artists of international renown.
Huggo's is nestled in the heart of Kailua Kona and specializes in award-winning entrees like fresh island fish and beautiful sunsets. Reservations required. "Huggo's on the rocks" is the perfect setting for lunch or pupus & cocktails at the ocean's edge.
Pizza pies and craft beer are what we do best! At Flour & Barley – Brick Oven Pizza you’ll find a traditional pizzeria eatery complete with Italian-American favorites to fit modern tastes. Flour & Barley stokes fires and taste buds with a focus on local flavors at each of its three locations.
The casual, breezy setting of this poolside restaurant bar satisfies every sense. Enjoy flavors of Hawaii paired with SuperFoods RX™ as award-winning chefs deliver delicious cuisine using farm fresh and local ingredients. Best Fish Tacos (Silver) | MNKO ‘Aipono Award 2015