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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).
Explore Maui Nui’s ocean environment with the experts at Pacific Whale Foundation through PacWhale Eco-Adventures top-rated Whalewatches, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lanai and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises.
Hawaii's world-class visual and performing arts complex located on Maui offers arts education & Hawaiian cultural programs, music, dance and theater performances, art exhibits, movie screenings & special events plus dining area & catering kitchen.
The Kauai Museum is the cultural Sanctuary for the art and artifacts of Native Hawaiians and it nurtures the creative spirit of today's artists.
Honolulu's culture hub featuring a world-class art collection, theater, cafés, shop, art classes, and art research library on three historic properties.
Take in the glow of Diamond head at golden hour and the magic of the Honolulu city lights from an all-new luxury powerboat! Ocean and You is the premier Oahu experience for an intimate and upscale sunset dinner cruise.
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
This open-air restaurant offers a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu filled with traditional favorites that are enhanced with local flavors, like the Onolicious French Toast made with Molokai sweet bread and lilikoi butter.
Fine dining in a casual atmosphere, our buffet menu includes succulent prime rib, seafood, fresh island dishes and yummy desserts. Our Prime Rib Buffet is set in a stunning venue with beautiful murals welcoming all to our tropical paradise.
Located 3 miles South of the quaint historic village of Holualoa, the Donkey Mill Art Center is a community art center providing classes, workshops, exhibits, and events for children and adults in a historic coffee mill. Open to all, Weds- Sat from 10am-6:30 pm.
Experience Waikiki’s breathtaking coastline and stunning sunsets aboard Majestic by Atlantis Cruises. We offer daily sunset dinner cruises and seasonal whale watch cruises. Join us!