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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).
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.
Located poolside, the Tiki Grill serves burgers, sandwiches, and snacks for a perfect outdoor picnic. Chicken Caesar Salad, chilled tropical fruits, delicious appetizers and ice-cold soft drinks are served with aloha. Complimentary entertainment nightly.
The Royal Scoop offers lighter fare with mouth-watering pastries and continental breakfast items, gourmet sandwiches and snacks, local Maui-made ice cream and frozen yogurt, and specialty coffees and smoothies. Outdoor seating is available, or for your convenience have your items wrapped to go.
Located in the hip new Kauai Shores Hotel in Kapa'a on the Coconut Coast of beautiful Kauai. Lava Lava Beach Club is what you come to Hawaii for. Come get some sand between your toes! Creative cocktails, casual laid-back fare, delicious entrees on the beach with live musicians entertaining nightly.
This barista bar has everything from 100-percent Kona Coffee to morning lattes and elevated grab and go selections. In the afternoon and evenings, Piko Coffee+Bar is the place to connect, lounge or relax with an island beverage while enjoying panoramic resort views.