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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Na Pali Sail
Kauai
Blue Dolphin Charters
4353 Waialo Road
Port Allen, HI 96705
Summary

No visit to Kauai is complete without an adventure on Na Pali Coast! Blue Dolphin Charters is proud to run the two largest motor sailing catamarans on Kauai specializing in tours of Na Pali Coast and the forbidden island of Niihau. Let our outstanding crew make your trip an unforgettable experience!

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Beyond the Reef
Oahu
Beyond the Reef
Summary

Beyond the Reef ​is a one stop shop for collectible memories of your trip to the islands or to capture that special event. Shopping is fun with our large selection of Hawaiian magnets, picture frames, and other unique Hawaiian souvenirs and gifts.

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Dolphin Star
Oahu
Dolphin Star
85-374 Farrington Hwy
Waianae, HI 96792
Summary

View wild dolphins on a fabulous eco-tour a world away from Waikiki. Led by our crew of Certified Naturalists you'll enjoy a unique experience, savor a Create-Your-Own Gourmet Burger lunch freshly grilled onboard. Dolphin sightings guaranteed!

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Front_Portside
Oahu
Makani Catamaran
1009 Ala Moana Blvd.
Slip F-1. Kewalo Harbor
Honolulu, HI 96814
Summary

Makani Catamaran is a luxury sailing vessel with a capacity of 80. Offering 4 sails daily. Departing from Kewalo Harbor. With an experienced crew, full wet bar, interior cabin with large screen TV, and surround sound its World Class Sailing at its finest!

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Kalulu
Lanai
Lana'i Ocean Sports
MANELE SMALL BOAT HARBOR
Lanai City, HI 96763
Summary

Lana'i Ocean Sports is committed to excellence by creating lifelong memories through personalized service delivered with Aloha. As stewards and sailors, we perpetuate our Hawaiian culture and protect our environment. As an ‘Ohana, we value each other and inspire integrity, innovation, and community.

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Learn More About The Cultural Significance Of Whales in Hawaii

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