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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Hula Hulas
Hawaii
Hula Hulas
93 Bayan Dr.
Hilo, HI 96720
Summary

Located ocean front on historic Banyan Drive in Hilo, Hula Hulas offers a creative twist on Hawaii cuisine. Sourcing from local farmers, fisherman, bow hunters and food artisans, Hula Hulas is Hawaii's best gathering spot for local cuisine, craft beers and cocktails, and live Hawaiian entertainment.

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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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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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Rainbow Lanai
Oahu
Rainbow Lanai
2005 Kalia Road
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

This beautiful, casual dining restaurant is perfect for a leisurely breakfast or informal lunch or dinner, great family dining. Bountiful buffets are offered daily. Located in the Rainbow Tower.

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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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