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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Kilauea Volcano
Hawaii
Kona Nature Tours
75-5737 Kuakini Highway #201
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Kona Nature Tours provide unique and customized experiences for visitors to the Big Island of Hawaii. Our adventure guides will take you to where we go, to see what we see and to live like we live. Experience: History and Culture, SCUBA, Guitars, Designed-to-taste meals, Rappelling, Portage Services, Private Beaches, Private Coves, Overnight Camping, Your Imagination.

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Hula Grill Waikiki
Oahu
Hula Grill Waikiki
2335 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 203
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Perched at the ocean’s edge overlooking famed Waikiki Beach, Hula Grill Waikiki presents diners with spectacular views of the beach and ocean. Open for breakfast and dinner daily plus lunch all weekend long.

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Spago by Wolfgang Puck at The Four Seasons Resort Maui
Maui
Wolfgang Puck's Spago
3900 Wailea Alanui
Wailea, HI 96753
Summary

At Spago in the Four Seasons Resort Maui, guests will enjoy a sunset and evening that is guaranteed to remember. Whether you are planning an intimate affair or a gala event, Spago offers versatile private dining. The private dining room or entire restaurant is available for your special occasion.

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Mauka Makai
Maui
Mauka Makai
45 Kai Malina Parkway
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Mauka Makai is located poolside with stunning ocean views at The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas and is open daily for breakfast and dinner from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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Kimo's
Maui
Kimo's
845 Front Street
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Historic landmark restaurant located on the water in Lahaina. Famous for fresh fish steaks and local fare. There's only one Kimo's!

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Red Salt Dining Room
Kauai
Red Salt
2251 Poipu Road
Koloa, HI 96756
Summary

Red Salt’s diverse menu by acclaimed Executive Chef and Kauai native Noelani Planas celebrates fresh Hawaiian seafood and produce in a casual, yet sophisticated seaside atmosphere.

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