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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).
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.
Grab-and-go café located on the lobby level featuring homemade pastries, salads and wraps made with local, organic and seasonal ingredients.
Voted Best Restaurant by Critics. Established in 2017 by executive chef and owner Kevin Lee, PAI Honolulu offers a refined, yet relaxed, dining experience. Located in the Harbor Court atrium, across from the iconic Aloha Tower, the restaurant is open for lunch, happy hour and dinner.
Enjoy our fabulous views at Frida’s with first class service! The sunsets at Frida’s are some of the best on the Island. Our staff here at Frida’s are the utmost professionals in their industry and will make your visit a pleasant one. Our motto, Practice Aloha!Come enjoy one of our over 40 Tequilas as you stare at the beautiful Mala Wharf listening to the sea.
Located on Kalakaua—the Rodeo Drive of Waikiki—Cheeseburger In Paradise, Waikiki began serving Aloha in 1997. Following in the footsteps of Lahaina, Waikiki serves up fantastic food, great value, amazing Aloha service and sensational unobstructed ocean views complete with magical sunsets.
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Hapuna’s new signature dining experience introduces an innovative menu inspired by the Mediterranean and infused with our island’s bounty.
Enjoy the relaxed poolside setting of Pikake Terrace. Casual dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nightly Hawaiian entertainment.
This award-winning, beachfront restaurant is open daily for breakfast & dinner. Serving lavish buffets, as well as savory entrees, Honu's on the Beach offers island-inspired cuisine & farm-to-table goodness. Enjoy its ocean view dining room or spacious lanai, complete with fire pits & scenic views.
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.