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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The Dining Room at Lahaina Grill
Maui
Lahaina Grill
127 Lahainaluna Rd.
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Lahaina Grill features cuisine using techniques and flavors from around the world with the freshest ingredients from Maui’s local farms, dairies and surrounding waters. Voted Top 10 fine dining restaurants in U.S. for 2018 by TripAdvisor and Best Maui Restaurant for 26 years in a row. (1994-2019).

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Dolphins
Hawaii
Captain Zodiac
74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy #16
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Awarded "2006/2007 C.R.U.I.S.E. Tour of the Year" by Princess Cruises! Captain Zodiac is more than a snorkel tour; it’s a high-speed thrill ride adventure. See dolphins & whales, explore sea caves and see blowholes & unique lava formations.

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Turtle
Maui
Pride of Maui
Summary

Pride of Maui is Maui’s #1 Molokini Snorkel Tour with over 30 years experience. She is the most spacious vessel on Maui, with unsurpassed stability and amenities. Her expert crew are some of the best in the business.

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Whale watching
Oahu
Wild Side Specialty Tours
87-1002 Hakimo Place Unit C.
Waianae Small Boat Harbor
Waianae, HI 96792
Summary

Oahu's only marine-biologist founded and led ocean wildlife tours. Small group (6-10 passengers) charters include year-round whale watching, swimming with dolphins, and snorkeling with giant sea turtles and endemic tropical reef fish. Portion of proceeds donated to marine conservation orgs.

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Cane & Canoe
Maui
Cane & Canoe
1 Bay Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Cane & Canoe offers a window into the Hawaiian soul – both past and present. Here, in this historically rich locale, locals and travelers come together, savoring creative, modern cuisine that celebrates Hawaii’s diverse cultural influences while showcasing its freshest, locally sourced ingredients.

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Manta at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Hawaii
Manta
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr
Kohala Coast, HI 96743-9706
Summary

Dinner at Manta is an occasion every night with a dynamic exhibition kitchen to showcase farm-fresh deliciousness with bold flavors to match stunning sunset and ocean views along with our 48-bottle wine selection via the Enomatic wine tasting experience.

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Shop interior
Kauai
Kauai Bound
3486 Rice St
Array Array
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

Kauai Bound is a locally owned snorkel, golf, underwater camera, and beach rental and retail shop located in Lihue at Anchor Cove Shopping Center. We carry quality dry snorkels with silicone masks, new Wilson golf sets, underwater cameras, and more!

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Reef Bar and Market
Oahu
Reef Bar and Market Grill
Summary

Located on iconic Waikiki Beach, the Reef Bar & Market Grill offers casual all-day dining modeled after authentic local island meat and fish markets. Guests select fresh “farm-to-beach” ingredients and grill their own steaks beachside in a one-of-a-kind interactive dining experience. The combination of locally sourced meats and seafood, farm-fresh produce and invigorating trade winds create an incomparable recipe for the perfect meal.

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Outfitters Kauai
Kauai
Outfitters Kauai
2827 Poipu Rd
Poipu Beach, HI 96756
Summary

From ziplines to downhill biking, hashtags don't begin to describe our Land Adventures. Join us for miles and miles of smiles. NEW May 1- Kauai's longest zipline at 4000ft. Famous for the renowned Kipu Zipline Safari and Bicycle Downhill Waimea Canyon. Making Kauai vacations AWESOME since 1988.

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