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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Join Dolphins and You and explore the west side of Oahu and swim with wild dolphins
Oahu
Dolphins and You
Waianae Boat Harbor
85-471 Farrington Hwy
Waianae, HI 96792
Summary

"Dolphins and You" is the oldest and most prestigious dolphin sail and swimming tour in Hawaii. Come join us on our luxury coach bus out to our brand new boat and begin the “Experience of a Lifetime" swimming with dolphins in the wild and Hawaiian sea turtles.

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Dolphins
Hawaii
Captain Zodiac
74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy #16
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Awarded "2006/2007 C.R.U.I.S.E. Tour of the Year" by Princess Cruises! Captain Zodiac is more than a snorkel tour; it’s a high-speed thrill ride adventure. See dolphins & whales, explore sea caves and see blowholes & unique lava formations.

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Fair Wind Cruising
Hawaii
Fair Wind
78-7130 Kaleiopapa Street
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Since 1971, Fair Wind continues to be the leader in snorkel cruises on the Big Island. Fair Wind provides an award-winning trip to spectacular Kealakekua Bay, site of the Capt. Cook monument, aboard the 60' catamaran, Fair Wind II.

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Back Side of Molokini
Maui
Blue Water Rafting
Kihei Boat Ramp
2920 S Kihei Rd
Kihei, HI 96753-1865
Summary

Snorkel with dolphins, sea turtles, and a colorful array of tropical fish. explore the sea caves and lava arches of a hidden volcanic coastline or have a close encounter with humpback whales. Climb aboard a Blue Water Raft and let the adventure unfold.

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Night Manta Canoe Adventure
Hawaii
Anelakai Adventures
Summary

Anelakai Adventures offers guided Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe, Night Manta Outrigger Canoe, Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board adventures on the Kona Coast of Big Island of Hawaii. Our goal is to share not only an amazing ocean experience with our guest, but also the history and culture of the island.

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Shop interior
Kauai
Kauai Bound
3366 Waapa Rd.
Suite 508 Anchor Cove Shopping Center
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

Kauai Bound is a locally owned snorkel, golf, underwater camera, and beach rental and retail shop located in Lihue at Anchor Cove Shopping Center. We carry quality dry snorkels with silicone masks, new Wilson golf sets, underwater cameras, and more!

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