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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).
Explore Maui Nui’s ocean environment with the experts at Pacific Whale Foundation through PacWhale Eco-Adventures top-rated Whalewatches, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lanai and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises.
Haleakala Bike Company Inc now does business as Bike Maui, Cruiser Phil Volcano Riders, and Haleakala Ecotours. We offer seven different tours for biking down the volcano. Bike Maui offers the "Self-Guided" tours and Cruiser Phil's offers the "Guided" tours.
Immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of Hawaii’s marine life at Maui Ocean Center, The Aquarium of Hawaii. Encounter schooling reef fish, sharks, stingrays, turtles, and experience the world's first virtual encounter with Hawaii's humpback whales in the Humpbacks of Hawaii Exhibit & 3D Sphere.
At "Ka'anapali Folly" you will enjoy resort amenities and breathtaking views from our well-appointed condo. We are located in West Maui along the ocean's edge of the famous Ka'anapali Beach. Whether traveling as a couple, with a group of friends or as a family there is something for everyone.
Hotel / Condominium offering 17 completely furnished vacation condominiums overlooking Hana Bay and the Pacific Ocean in the heart of historic Hana town.
Royal Kahana Maui by Outrigger is an oceanfront condominium located between Kaanapali and Kapalua on Maui. Upgraded studios, one- and two-bedroom units feature spectacular ocean views, with the islands of Lanai and Molokai in the distance.
In Makena, discover the awe and wonder of ancient lava flows, pristine shorelines and historical sites. Cobbled pathways amid lush gardens meander to secluded sandy beaches, swimming pools, tennis courts, herb gardens and expansive 2- and 3-bedroom vacation residences with oceanfront views.
One of West Maui's best kept secrets with breathtaking views of Molokai and Lanai, and a small secluded beach for snorkeling or just dipping your toes in the water. Great for watching the resident turtles return at sunset.
Providing stress-free weddings & vow renewals since 1992. Offering complete wedding packages or custom arrangements. Minister only or last minute calls welcomed. Have access to private oceanfront estate. If you can dream it, we can arrange it!
This oceanfront Resort offers luxurious guestrooms in its 12-story tower, and garden and oceanfront cottage accommodations reminiscent of Hawaii's Plantation Era. Enjoy exceptional service, three pools, a restaurant and bars and an oceanfront Luau on the best stretch of Kaanapali Beach.