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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).
The Battleship Missouri is located on legendary Battleship Row in the famous Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. General MacArthur accepted the unconditional Japanese surrender that ended WWII on the Surrender Deck of the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
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.
Discover Oahu with Oahu Outdoor Guides - Tour the most popular Hawaiian Island with the Oahu Circle Island Small Group Tour. This must-do tour covers most of the popular highlights of the island (besides Pearl Harbor; separate tour) and adds some less visited gems along the tour.
Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a non-profit organization that strives to connect people with the park through education, volunteerism, and philanthropy. Our Hawaii Volcanoes Institute field seminars and private tours provide inspirational experiences in the great outdoors.
Haleakala Ecotours is an authorized concessionaire for Haleakala National Park. We provide Sunrise, Daytime, and Sunset tours of Upcountry Maui and Haleakala National Park as well as Hana tours.
Friends of NELHA (FON) is an independent, volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting education and outreach programs at Keahole Point, where NELHA is recognized worldwide as a unique and innovative ocean park.
Locally owned and operated zodiac tour company providing tours to the Na Pali Coast of Kaua'i, where everyone becomes our 'ohana and the fun never ends!
We're honored to be chosen as TripAdvisors Travelers' Choice Award Winners for small group ocean eco-rafting tours in Maui since 1982! Share encounters with whales, dolphins and turtles and snorkel the island of Lanai! Every ticket supports freeing of entangled whales and our research partners!
More than 600 cats call us home. As a nonprofit, we rely on donations to make lifelong care possible for our Lanai Lions. Our rescue work saves cats, protects endangered birds and reduces cat overpopulation. Open daily from 10am-3pm. No appointment is required. Learn more at lanaicatsanctuary.org
Enjoy a tranquil moment during your busy sightseeing schedule. Enjoy the lush gardens on the Laie Hawaii Temple grounds, then come inside the visitors' center to learn more about Jesus Christ and the purpose of temples. We also invite you to visit the nearby Polynesian Cultural Center.