Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii
Whale Watching

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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Lawai Stream in McBryde Garden
McBryde Garden
4425 Lawai Rd
Koloa, HI 96756

McBryde Garden is a veritable Noah's ark for threatened and endangered plants of the tropics. Located in the verdant Lawa`i Valley. Self-guided tours available daily. Tram into garden. Other tours available.

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

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.

Maui waterfall
Maui Hiking Safaris
26 Makani Road
Makawao, HI 96768

Affordable guided half and full-day hikes. The hikes range from easy to strenuous. Localities include rain forests, waterfalls, valleys and mountain. A narrative on Hawaiian history, volcanology and flora is given. Day packs, water and meal provided. VOTED EXCELLENT ON TRIPADVISOR FOR 2017 !

HWC Story Wall at the Hoopulama Science and Discovery Center
Hawaii Wildlife Center

The Hawai‘i Wildlife Center (HWC) is a state-of-the-art native wildlife hospital and rehabilitation center. The facility features a science and discovery center and retail store. Science center admission is free. Donations are welcome. Public hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kualoa Ocean Voyage
Kualoa - Hawaii
49-560 Kamehameha Hwy
Kaneohe, HI 96744

Kualoa is 4,000 acres of stunning tropical beauty offering a Jurassic Valley Zipline, ATVs, Raptor Tours, Boat tours, Hollywood Movie Site Tours, Food Tours as well as Horseback. If you've seen Jurassic World, you've seen Kualoa!

Hale Ohu B&B
Hale Ohu Bed & Breakfast
19-3896 Old Volcano Road
Volcano, HI 96785

Hale Ohu Bed & Breakfast opened in 2017 and offers three completely renovated bedrooms in Volcano Village, Hi. Located five minutes from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hale Ohu is the perfect location to explore the area. The property has a well-cared for botanical garden and rainforest walk.

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

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.

Lana'i Ocean Sports
Lanai City, HI 96763

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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