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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Cane & Canoe
Maui
Cane & Canoe
1 Bay Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Cane & Canoe offers a window into the Hawaiian soul – both past and present. Here, in this historically rich locale, locals and travelers come together, savoring creative, modern cuisine that celebrates Hawaii’s diverse cultural influences while showcasing its freshest, locally sourced ingredients.

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Reef Bar and Market
Oahu
Reef Bar and Market Grill
Summary

Located on iconic Waikiki Beach, the Reef Bar & Market Grill offers casual all-day dining modeled after authentic local island meat and fish markets. Guests select fresh “farm-to-beach” ingredients and grill their own steaks beachside in a one-of-a-kind interactive dining experience. The combination of locally sourced meats and seafood, farm-fresh produce and invigorating trade winds create an incomparable recipe for the perfect meal.

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Restaurant
Maui
Japengo Maui
200 Nohea Kai Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Serving up world-class steaks, seafood and sushi, Japengo at Hyatt Regency Maui provides Hawaii’s freshest, locally-grown products and exotic Pacific Rim cuisine. Enjoy Japengo’s indoor and outdoor seating overlooking Ka’anapali Beach, or watch as sushi is rolled to order in the chic Sushi Lounge. 

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Spago by Wolfgang Puck at The Four Seasons Resort Maui
Maui
Wolfgang Puck's Spago
3900 Wailea Alanui
Wailea, HI 96753
Summary

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.

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Dining
Oahu
Hoku's
5000 Kahala Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96816
Summary

Hoku's at The Kahala Hotel & Resort is heralded for its innovative fusion fare which melds Hawaiian, Asian, Mediterranean and European flavors. The restaurant’s twist on contemporary Island cuisine ensures that it is consistently ranked as one of Hawaii's best restaurants.

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Hau Tree at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Hawaii
Hau Tree
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr
Kohala Coast, HI 96743
Summary

Enjoy time out of the sunshine relaxing oceanside at Hau Tree. Enjoy lunch and Mauna Kea's famous and refreshing Ovaltine Froth. Catch sunset at the Gazebo Bar with our signature drink, the Fredrico, in hand. Join us Saturdays for the Mauna Kea Clambake.

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Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu Exterior View
Oahu
Hard Rock Cafe - Honolulu
280 Beach Walk
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Situated in the heart of Waikiki, Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu is conveniently located within walking distance to many resorts, shops, the Hawaii Convention Center, and iconic Waikiki beach. An open air venue which features veranda seating and a blue wave bar for a truly unique dining experience.

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Front Entrance
Maui
Morimoto Maui
3550 Wailea Alanui Drive
Kihei, HI 96753
Summary

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.

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