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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Maui Ocean Center
Maui
Maui Ocean Center
192 Maalaea Rd
Wailuku, HI 96793
Summary

Come face-to-face with sharks, stingrays, turtles, and thousands of vibrant tropical fish at Maui Ocean Center, The Aquarium of Hawaii! Discover one of the world’s largest displays of live Pacific corals and encounter Hawaii’s marine life, many of which are found nowhere else in the world!

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Kong Lung Trading entrance
Kauai
Kong Lung Trading
2484 Keneke Rd.
Kilauea, HI 96754
Summary

120 year old North Shore company store for the Kilauea Sugar Plantation has evolved to become an upscale gift and clothing boutique for transcendent and timeless merchandise. Located on the road to the Kilauea Lighthouse, minutes from Princeville.

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Our Store At Ali'i Gardens
Hawaii
Kona Natural Soap Company
75-6129 Alii Drive
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Kona Natural Soap Company manufacturers and sells aromatheraphy vegan soaps and infused kukui nut oils; grows and sells 100% Kona Coffee and 100% Hawaiian roasted cocoa beans grown on our bio-diverse 5 acre farm called Kokoleka Lani Farm. We also offer culinary tours through "Home Tours Hawaii."

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Honolulu location
Oahu
Manuhealii Inc.
930 Punahou St.
Honolulu, HI 96826
Summary

Started in 1985, Manuheali'i Inc. has specialized in design of Hawaiian apparel and accessories. With two retail locations in Honolulu and Kailua, and an online store, Manuheali'i continues to supply patrons with ever-changing collections of original designs and styles.

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Adventure Boat
Oahu
The Adventure Boat
1651 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Escape the crowds and join us on private cruise you won’t soon forget. Go faster and farther than anyone else in town on a private charter for spectacular coastal sightseeing tours, incredible sea life (turtles, fish, dolphins, and whales—in season), and snorkeling. The adventure is up to you!

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Learn More About The Cultural Significance Of Whales in Hawaii

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