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).
Recognized as the premier Farm to Cup coffee company in the world, focused on the ultimate Hawaiian [...]
Booking online with Snorkel Molokini is the easiest, least expensive and fastest way to plan your [...]
Enjoy a one hour sail aboard the Kepoikai II Catamaran straight from the iconic Waikiki beach with [...]
Experience the challenge at Maui's only aerial adventure park. With over 50 different high and low [...]
A mobile surfboard rental company in Waikiki serving Honolulu, Hawaii with free islandwide surfboard [...]
An incredible luau experience on Oahu's beautiful east shore! Award-winning entertainment, food, and [...]
We offer 8 top-ranked discounted activities on Maui: Authentic Taste of Maui - Food Tour, Iao Valley & [...]
CLIMB Works Keana Farms Zipline Tour consists of eight world class dual ziplines, two rapels and four [...]
The Kauai Museum is the cultural Sanctuary for the art and artifacts of Native Hawaiians and it nurtures [...]
Kahilu Theatre Foundation raised its curtain in 1981 as a 490-seat Broadway Stage. Today, in addition to [...]
Leilani is a custom crafted 50-foot Uniflite Power Vessel. Specially designed for Hawaii's oceans, she [...]
Booking with Maui Activities Store is the easiest, least expensive and fastest way to plan your Maui [...]