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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).
Experience Maui's top-rated Whalewatch, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lana'i and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises; and much more with the experts at Pacifc Whale Foundation.
At Morimoto Maui, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto uses locally sourced, seasonally fresh ingredients from Hawaii to embark on a distinct culinary adventure that blends Western and Japanese ingredients. Morimoto Maui brings a thoughtfully crafted lunch and dinner menu to a laidback, beachfront setting.
'Ūmalu offers casual cuisine poolside at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Choose from a variety of fresh salads and creative sandwiches throughout the day at our shaded restaurant or between the waterfalls at our Grotto Bar. Also enjoy our new dinner menu full of mouthwatering entrees, as late as midnight.
Honu is owned by Chef Mark & Judy Ellman, located on the rocks of Mala Wharf. Have Lunch and watch the turtles and enjoy a Brick fired pizza or Crab Louie Salad, Ahi Bruschetta their signature dish or a Rasberry Lilikoi Tart from it's in house bakery.
Lahaina Grill features cuisine using techniques and flavors from around the world with the freshest ingredients from Maui’s local farms, dairies and surrounding waters. Voted Top 10 fine dining restaurants in U.S. for 2018 by TripAdvisor and Best Maui Restaurant for 26 years in a row. (1994-2019).
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.