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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).
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.
As the sun sets across famed Kaanapali Beach, beating drums and the call of a conch shell signal the start of Maui's most exciting and longest running Polynesian luau. Enjoy a stunning celebration of music and dance that culminates with an amazing fire knife finale sure to dazzle the entire family.
CLIMB Works Keana Farms Zipline Tour consists of eight world class dual ziplines, two rapels and four sky bridges making it the longest and most unique zipline on Oahu. The 3-hour guided tour also includes an ATV ride, tastes of local fruits and panoramic ocean and mountain views of the North Shore.
HO'OMAU RANCH! Horseback riding, ATV/UTV Tours & Ranch Stay. Rare endemic, critically endangered tree species Loulu Palm Pritchardia Schattaueri, Mehamehame, Native Mesic forest. Hawaiian Hoary bat! Bird watch for endangered 'io, endemic 'apapane, 'elepaio and Pueo. Cattle pastures & Agritourism!
Enjoy a garden luau followed by Kauai's most spectacular international pageant at the lagoon amphitheater. The Golden People of Hawaii depicts dances and songs from Polynesia and Asia. Luau's are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Experience Lanai by Four Seasons and explore your own 90,000 acres island. Enjoy breath taking views of Lana'i's uplands and embrace its cultural and historical offerings through a 2-hour guided UTV tour. Ride horseback and discover untouched Hawaii on the one-of-a-kind island. Tours daily.
Originally built in 1940, Kapalua’s Cliff House was once a facility for the managers of the historic Honolua Plantation. Now operated by Montage Kapalua Bay, Cliff House has been completely renovated and is now used as a historic and unparalleled venue for private events on Maui.
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.