Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii

Whale Watching

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Whale Watching in Hawaii

Just as our idyllic weather welcomes tourists from around the world, the warm and shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for kohola, or humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. They race more than 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii, then stay for a lengthy vacation, frolicking just off our shores and delighting spectators from December through May. 

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.   


Cultural Significance of Whales in Hawaii

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. 


What's the Best Way to See Whales?

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. 

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).

Whale Watching in Hawaii

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Haleakala Sunrise
Maui
Bike Maui
810 Haiku Road Ste. 120
Haiku, HI 96708
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Haleakala Bike Company Inc now does business as Bike Maui, Cruiser Phil Volcano Riders, and Haleakala Ecotours. We offer seven different tours for biking down the volcano. Bike Maui offers the "Self-Guided" tours and Cruiser Phil's offers the "Guided" tours.

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Skyline Hawaii
Maui
Skyline Hawaii
12 Kiopaa St.
Makawao, HI 96768
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From sunrise to sunset, Haleakala National Park, and the surrounding upcountry Maui area offer memories for a lifetime. Make the most of your trip to Haleakala National Park on a guided tour with Skyline Hawaii. Let us do the navigating while you enjoy the views and learn about the environment and cultural significance of Haleakala.

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Hawaii-Guide homepage
Maui
Hawaii-Guide.com
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Hawaii-Guide offers personalized Hawaii travel advice and vacation tips on the top attractions and things to see and do within the Hawaiian islands. Plus you can explore our handpicked Hawaii tours, activities, and accommodations - each vetted by our team of Hawaii experts.

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Maui Family Photography in Wailea at Sunset
Maui
Aubrey Hord Photography
24 Kiopaa Place
Suite 202
Makawao, HI 96768
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Maui Photographer, Aubrey Hord, is a portrait photographer known for creating iconic photographs for playful, passionate and adventurous clients in Hawaii. She specializes in photography for couples, families and high school seniors. Serving Maui, Kauai, Oahu and Hawaii Island. www.aubreyhord.com

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