Scroll to Continue
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).
Explore Maui Nui’s ocean environment with the experts at Pacific Whale Foundation through PacWhale Eco-Adventures top-rated Whalewatches, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lanai and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises.
Ewa Hotel Waikiki offers a convenient location in Waikiki without paying a hefty price. A hidden gem, the hotel is located just two blocks from Waikiki Beach, and right across from Kapiolani Park and the Honolulu Zoo. Guests enjoy a rooftop sun deck for soaking up the sun and catching sunsets.
Oceanfront one- and two-bedroom condos located on the border of Kihei and Wailea. The luxurious Mana Kai Resort sits on Keawakapu Beach and enjoys amenities like an oceanfront pool, state-of-the-art fitness center, ground floor restaurant/bar, yoga studio, and so much more! Book exact condos!
The Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, often referred to as the "First Lady of Waikiki," is a legendary landmark introducing the world to Hawaiian hospitality in 1901. Step back into yesteryear with all the contemporary amenities and unique services to make your Hawaii vacation memorable.
Restored authentic Hawaiian plantation estate providing classes and accommodations on the North Shore of Maui with extensive programs for yoga, watersports, meditation and well being. Offering Farm-to-table dining, adventure classes and activities include surfing, kite surfing and paddle boarding.
Charming two bedroom beachfront cottages located on the lush east end of Molokai. Each on own secluded beach with safe swimming, snorkeling, fishing year round. Views of Mau'i, Lanai and Kaho'olawe. Whale watching December through April.