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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Ocean Odyssey
Maui
Pacific Whale Foundation
300 Maalaea Rd Ste 211
Maalaea, HI 96793
Summary

Experience Maui's top-rated Whalewatch, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lana'i and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises; and much more with the experts at Pacifc Whale Foundation.

Night Manta Canoe Adventure
Hawaii
Anelakai Adventures
Summary

Anelakai Adventures offers guided Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe, Night Manta Outrigger Canoe, Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board adventures on the Kona Coast of Big Island of Hawaii. Our goal is to share not only an amazing ocean experience with our guest, but also the history and culture of the island.

Maui Ocean Center
Maui
Maui Ocean Center
192 Ma'alaea Rd
Hwy 30, Ma'alaea Harbor
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 collection of live Pacific corals and encounter Hawaii’s marine life, many of which are found nowhere else in the world!

Baby Manta Rays.
Hawaii
Wahine Charters
73-1073 Ahikawa St
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Wahine Charters is the number one snorkel tour company in Kona. We specialize in small groups of 14 or less. It is our goal to find Hawaii's magnificent wild dolphins, Humpback Whales & Manta Rays. Our guest comfortably cruise on our 29' US Coast Guard Certified vessel. Family owned & operated.

HIJourney1
Oahu
Hawaiian Journey
55-370 Kamehameha Hwy
Laie, HI 96762
Summary

Experience Hawaii like never before. See. Hear. Touch. Smell...Hawaiian Journey, our new immersive cinematic experience. It's an epic tale, passed down from ancestors, about the Hawaiian peoples' connection to the land.

Hawaii's Complete Pineapple Experience
Oahu
Dole Plantation
64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy
Wahiawa, HI 96786
Summary

Get lost in the 2008 world's largest maze (as featured in the Guinness Book of World Records). Take a ride on the Pineapple Express train and stroll through the Plantation Garden Tour and learn about the history of pineapple and agriculture in Hawaii.

Kahilu Theatre Exterior
Hawaii
Kahilu Theatre Foundation
67-1186 Lindsey Road
Kamuela, HI 96743
Summary

Kahilu Theatre Foundation raised its curtain in 1981 as a 490-seat Broadway Stage. Today, in addition to presenting a full season of world-class performances, we offer quality art exhibits from emerging and established visual artists and develop accessible performing arts programs for students of all ages.

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