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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).
Makana Charters is the only Na Pali tour company offering personalized or private morning and afternoon tours on the Na Pali coast on your choice of three vessels - a 32 or 12 person catamaran, or an adventurous tour on our shaded raft. Explore the sea caves, get under waterfalls, and snorkel.
Kohala Divers is your one stop water sport connection for scuba diving, snorkeling, sportfishing and whale watching. we are a five star PADI dive training facility and offer high quality water sports equipment for rent or retail.
Located at historic Waikiki Aquarium, Diamond Head Luau is Oahu's only farm to table luau experience.
An incredible luau experience on Oahu's beautiful east shore! Award-winning entertainment, food, and admission to iconic Sea Life Park included!
Historic landmark restaurant located on the water in Lahaina. Famous for fresh fish steaks and local fare. There's only one Kimo's!
Dine Hawaiian-style. Feel the romance in thatched-roof bungalows that seemingly float above a koi filled lagoon at the base of a waterfall. Savor contemporary Hawaiian cuisine featuring fresh fish and steak in this extraordinary setting.
The 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii offers an immersive Hawaiian journey through time and space, with interactive exhibits, a leading-edge full-dome planetarium, award-winning landscape of native Hawaiian Plants, and a Resaurant with views of Hilo Bay.
Snorkel with award-winning Fair Wind Cruises aboard the luxury vessel, Hula Kai. Our Big Island snorkel & SNUBA tour travels the Kailua-Kona Coast to the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii. We also offer Kona's first-class Manta Ray snorkel adventure, sure to be the highlight of your Hawaii Vacation.
Come experience our canoe presentation sure to both inspire and entertain. Our colorful midday production explodes with Polynesian spirit, stories, and fun depicting the allure and adventure of ocean life through ancient myths and customs, inspiring local history, and favorite island songs.
Admission prices: $12 Adults, $5 Children (4-12), FREE Children 3 & under, $8 Kamaaina, $8 Active Duty Military, $5 Seniors(65+), $5 persons with disabilities, FREE Fowa Members. 2019 marks the 115th anniversary of the aquarium making the Waikiki Aquarium the 2nd oldest in the United States