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

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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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Kimo's
Maui
Kimo's
845 Front Street
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Historic landmark restaurant located on the water in Lahaina. Famous for fresh fish steaks and local fare. There's only one Kimo's!

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Haleakala - Maui
Multi-Island
Sunshine Helicopters
1 Kahului Airport Road - Hangar 107
Kahului, HI 96732
Summary

Sunshine Helicopters offers air tours of Maui, Molokai, Big Island Hawaii and Kauai. Over 90% of the State of Hawaii is accessible only by helicopter. Soar with us in the blue skies above the Hawaiian Islands aboard our "Black Beauty" state-of-the-art helicopters.

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BBQ1
Oahu
Island BBQ at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Polynesian Cultural Center
55-370 Kamehameha Hwy
Laie, HI 96762
Summary

The Island BBQ at the Polynesian Cultural Center offers an all you can eat buffet featuring a quality continental menu. Served in a beautiful and spacious dining hall reflecting the islands of the Pacific, our family-friendly “all you can eat” menu comes with dishes to please your entire Ohana.

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Spicy Chicken
Oahu
P.F. Chang's Waikiki
2201 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Savor the flavor of P.F. Chang's. Chefs use wok cooking to create Asian inspired dining using only the freshest, high quality ingredients to create cuisine that is inventive with flavor that comes from the heart. Enjoy wine by the glass, tempting desserts served with local hospitality & free Wi-Fi.

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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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Kilohana Mansion
Kauai
Kilohana
3-2087 Kaumualii Highway
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

Kilohana Plantation is a historic landmark and premier visitor attraction offering visitors and locals a glimpse into Kauai’s past combined with assorted island-style activities, dining and shopping.

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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.

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Night Manta Canoe Adventure
Hawaii
Anelakai Adventures
Summary

Anelakai Adventures offers guided Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe, Night Manta Outrigger Canoe, Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board adventures on the Kona Coast of Big Island of Hawaii. Our goal is to share not only an amazing ocean experience with our guest, but also the history and culture of the island.

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