Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii
Whale Watching

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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Restaurant
Maui
Japengo Maui
200 Nohea Kai Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Serving up world-class steaks, seafood and sushi, Japengo at Hyatt Regency Maui provides Hawaii’s freshest, locally-grown products and exotic Pacific Rim cuisine. Enjoy Japengo’s indoor and outdoor seating overlooking Ka’anapali Beach, or watch as sushi is rolled to order in the chic Sushi Lounge. 

Websites
Mauka Makai
Maui
Mauka Makai
45 Kai Malina Parkway
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Mauka Makai is located poolside with stunning ocean views at The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas and is open daily for breakfast and dinner from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Websites
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.

Websites
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.

Websites
Duke's Beach House
Maui
Duke's Beach House
130 Kai Malina Pkwy
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

This open-air restaurant offers a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu filled with traditional favorites that are enhanced with local flavors, like the Onolicious French Toast made with Molokai sweet bread and lilikoi butter.

Websites

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