Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii

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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Kai Cafe
Maui
Kai Cafe
1 Ritz Carlton Drive
Kapalua, HI 96761
Summary

Grab-and-go café located on the lobby level featuring homemade pastries, salads and wraps made with local, organic and seasonal ingredients.

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Ahi Tataki Salad
Oahu
Pounders Restaurant
55-370 Kamehameha Highway Suite 1010
Laie, HI 96762
Summary

Pounders is a farm fresh island style restaurant serving fresh produce from island farms, Hawaii-raised grass-fed beef, locally caught seafood, savory delights from the Pacific Rim, and unique Hawaiian-style pizzas in their kiawe-fired brick oven imported from Napoli.

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Lappert's Hawaii: Hilton Hawaiian Village
Oahu
Lappert's Hawaii
Summary

At Lappert's Hawaii, we make everything by hand from scratch using only the finest ingredients. From our five retail stores to our wholesale to High-end restaurants state-wide, we are proud to be part of Hawaii's community for over 30 years.

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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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Hinana Bar
Oahu
Hinana Bar
100 Holomoana St
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Refreshing beverages and a select casual dining menu let you relax and enjoy your time in the sun to the fullest. Lounge or plunge...our staff is on hand to help you make the most of your poolside experience.

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Number 3 located at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Hawaii
Number 3
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr
Kohala Coast, HI 96743
Summary

Enjoy a casual lunch, ice cold beer and libations on legendary Mauna Kea Golf Course at the clubhouse. Venue available evenings for special events.

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Dondero's Patio Dining
Kauai
Dondero's Restaurant
1571 Poipu Road
Koloa, HI 96756
Summary

Vintage Tuscan villa frescoes and luscious aromas of classic Italian cuisine greet you. The floor to ceiling windows, elegant ambiance and classics made with a fresh twist will entice. The menu features all your favorites made with the freshest of ingredients. Indoor and lanai seating available.

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