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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).
Snorkel with dolphins, sea turtles, and a colorful array of tropical fish. explore the sea caves and lava arches of a hidden volcanic coastline or have a close encounter with humpback whales. Climb aboard a Blue Water Raft and let the adventure unfold.
Maui's Ultimate Zipline Adventure is located high above the Kapalua Resort on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains. West Maui's only ALL dual zipline course is world-famous for its breathtaking views super long zips and technologically advanced equipment.
We focus on the complete surfing experience. Lessons are available for beginning through advanced surfers with a special emphasis on safety and ocean awareness. Group and private surf lessons as well as specialized surf clinics.
Mystery Maui Escape Room is a live, physical adventure game where players find clues in themed spaces to open locks and solve the mystery of the room within 60 minutes. It's an ideal indoor, rainy-day or late-night activity that is fun for couples, families or co-workers.
Live butterfly farm and educational tours. Hands on tours involving the entire life cycle of the butterfly including eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies. See some of the wildlife found on the farm. Surround yourself with live butterflies in Hawaii’s only live butterfly house.
Sunshine Helicopters offers air tours of Maui, Molokai, Big Island Hawaii and Kauai. Over 90% of the State of Hawaii is accessible only by helicopter. Soar with us in the blue skies above the Hawaiian Islands aboard our "Black Beauty" state-of-the-art helicopters.
In ancient Hawaii people would gather and feast for many an occasion; to celebrate the arrival of royalty, to herald the changing of seasons, or just to relish in the delights of life, family, and friends. We welcome you to experience Ahaaina Wailea, A Grand Wailea Luau.