Scroll to Continue
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.
A swell little spot in Waikiki, this untraditional yet unforgettable hotel offers a slice of authentic Waikiki through expertly designed rooms and suites paired with handcrafted experiences. On-site amenities include a pool, Chef Ed Kenny's restaurant Mahina & Sun's, and Olive & Oliver boutique.
This AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star resort boasts 243 luxurious rooms in 36 low-rise ocean view bungalows, private golf course, Hualalai Spa, seven distinct pools, cultural center, fabulous island cuisine, and signature Four Seasons service.
An oceanfront hideaway nestled on a curve of golden beach in Haena on Kauai’s lush north shore, offering 48 deluxe two-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens. The secluded location and peaceful, laid-back ambiance set amidst stunning natural beauty provide a one-of-a-kind getaway for travelers.
Historic Lodge near Volcanoes National Park. Romantic rooms & Cottages. Fireplaces. Award-winning restaurant. Gazebo, Hot Tub. Nestled on 10 acres. Conference/private dining room. Breakfast 7:30a-10a, Lunch 10a-2p, Pau Hana (Happy Hour) 2p-5p daily, Dinner nightly 5p-9p & Sunday Brunch 10a-2p.
Tropical Up-Country Plantation House compound B&B in Kona Coffee country with aloha and a touch of Eden. Enjoy a deep Japanese Stone/tile ofuro (Spa) with massage jets. A place of peaceful oasis in the eye of the storm.
On Anaeho'omalu Bay on 10 beachfront acres, Lava Lava Beach Club offers four contemporary Hawaiian cottages, open air restaurant serving lunch, dinner and a weekend Bloody Mary Beach Brunch. Stunning beachfront venue and event lawn ideal for groups and weddings.