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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 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii offers an immersive Hawaiian journey through time and space, with interactive exhibits, a leading-edge full-dome planetarium, award-winning landscape of native Hawaiian Plants, and a Resaurant with views of Hilo Bay.
This Smithsonian-affiliated Lyman Museum tells the story of Hawaii’s islands and people. Exhibits trace Hawaii’s history from its volcanic origins and the flora and fauna that arrived before humans to life in ancient Hawaii and the immigrant groups that helped shape Hawaii’s unique culture of today
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!
The Umauma Falls and ZipLine Experience is Hawaii's best 9-Line zipline experience. Enjoy beautiful ocean views and lush tropical vegetation while you zip over 14 waterfalls, including the famous triple-tier Umauma Falls and almost 2 miles of ziplining excitement. It's an experience of a lifetime!
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.
The background sound of ocean surf and a soulful steel guitar; a welcome lei and Mai Tai; tables laden with traditional island foods; this is The Mauna Kea Luau - everyone's dream Hawaii experience shared through music and food.
We offer guided ATV tours ranging from an hour and a half to three hours. Our native guides will share Hawaiian history while the group explores spectacular scenery of the Hawaiian coastline, two beautiful waterfalls, and an old tropical rainforest.
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Big Island's most popular luau at the Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. Located on the historical grounds of Ahu Ena Heiau on Kamakahonu Bay. Includes the arrival of the Royal Court by canoe, an imu ceremony, a buffet dinner, open bar and a spectacular Polynesian review.