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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).
At Pearl Harbor Tours we strive to be the most convenient, entertaining, personalized and safest tours on the road here in Hawaii so you can enjoy a stress-free experience visiting Oahuʻs top attractions. Our small group tours of 12 passengers or less will make you feel part of our ohana. Join Us.
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Aloha Festivals is a statewide non-profit, multi-cultural festival formed in 1946 and held each September. It features over 100 events: parades, street parties, cultural displays and more. Most events free with discounts offered to ribbon wearers.
Experience Waikiki’s breathtaking coastline and stunning sunsets aboard Majestic by Atlantis Cruises. We offer daily sunset dinner cruises and seasonal whale watch cruises. Join us!
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Still & Moving Center is a local and global hub for mindful movement. Activities at Still & Moving Center are available in person and online! Call us to book corporate & private groups, private sessions & group classes, focused on wellness and Hawaiian culture.
The historic Hawaii Theatre is a 1400-seat multi-purpose performing arts center for music, dance, drama, national/international tours/festivals, film, and meetings.
Gunstock Ranch, home of Oahu's first Hawaiian Legacy Forest, is a 45-year old family owned horse and cattle ranch. Come explore and learn about Hawaii as well as give back by planting and dedicating a tree. Adventure options include horseback riding and off-road vehicles, hiking and walking tours.
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The Hawaii Okinawa Center (HOC) is the “home” of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association. The Hawaii United Okinawa Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to promote, perpetuate and preserve Okinawan culture. For more information, visit www.huoa.org.