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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).
Hali‘imaile General Store is Chef Bev Gannon’s original and most acclaimed restaurant featuring eclectic American food with Asian overtones, the essence of modern Hawaii food. Founded in 1988, “The Store” has been a Maui destination for both visitors and locals.
Chef Jeff Scheer (2015 Aipono Chef of the Year) uses only the highest quality ingredients, hand-picked within our own plantation’s fields, working closely with select Maui farmers and providers. Each dish is prepared with integrity, expertise, and fearless creativity.
This award-winning, beachfront restaurant is open daily for breakfast & dinner. Serving lavish buffets, as well as savory entrees, Honu's on the Beach offers island-inspired cuisine & farm-to-table goodness. Enjoy its ocean view dining room or spacious lanai, complete with fire pits & scenic views.
At Spago in the Four Seasons Resort Maui, guests will enjoy a sunset and evening that is guaranteed to remember. Whether you are planning an intimate affair or a gala event, Spago offers versatile private dining. The private dining room or entire restaurant is available for your special occasion.
Enjoy a respite from the warm tropical sun with a delicious meal and cooling beverage from Naupaka Beach Grill. In the evening, relax to live Hawaiian entertainment as the sun dips below the Pacific’s blue horizon.
Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. provides unique family recipes that customers, as well as tour guests, can enjoy. Our menu is constantly changing with the seasons so there's always something new, fresh and delicious for you to come and try!
Located in the King’s Course Clubhouse at the Waikoloa Resort, Mai Grille is a gathering place for a delightful breakfast, post-round relaxation, Sunday Brunch gatherings, serene happy hour and a glorious dining experience.
The open-air Don the Beachcomber signature restaurant located at the Royal Kona Resort features a prime oceanfront setting with spectacular sunset views. Choose from succulent Pacific Fusion, Prime Rib and seafood specialties.