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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Ocean Odyssey
Maui
Pacific Whale Foundation
300 Maalaea Rd Ste 211
Maalaea, HI 96793
Summary

Experience Maui's top-rated Whalewatch, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lana'i and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises; and much more with the experts at Pacifc Whale Foundation.

Baby Manta Rays.
Hawaii
Wahine Charters
73-1073 Ahikawa St
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Wahine Charters is the number one snorkel tour company in Kona. We specialize in small groups of 14 or less. It is our goal to find Hawaii's magnificent wild dolphins, Humpback Whales & Manta Rays. Our guest comfortably cruise on our 29' US Coast Guard Certified vessel. Family owned & operated.

Tour 55
Oahu
E Noa Tours
Summary

Personalized, air-conditioned 25-27 passenger deluxe mini-bus sightseeing tours of Oahu's most popular attractions escorted by knowledgeable Hawaiiana certified drivers. Customized charters available. Group and travel agent discounts available.

Dolphins
Hawaii
Captain Zodiac
74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy #16
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

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.

Company pic
Hawaii
Jack's Tours, Inc.
Summary

Specializing on the Big Island for 40+ years, we offer an array of English/Japanese-narrated tours, transportation and related services in luxury vehicles, which include our popular Circle Island Tour and exciting Stargazing and Volcano Hiking Tours.

Friendly Guide, Domi
Kauai
Best of Kauai Tour
Summary

From the beaches of the East Side to the striking Fern Grotto and the lush Waimea Canyon, this tour shows you the spectacular sights of Kauai. Follow your guide for a journey on land, by water, and in the air to see the Island's beauty from every angle.

Waimea Valley 1
Oahu
Waimea Valley
Waimea Valley Road
Haleiwa, HI 96712
Summary

This beautiful treasure is rich in Hawaiian history and cultural sites, nestled in a stunning botanical garden. Experience more than 5,000 botanicals along a paved path to the 45-foot waterfall. Along the way there are cultural practitioners and artisans sharing various native Hawaiian practices.

Bike and Hike to Active Lava Surface Flows
Hawaii
Bikevolcano.com
Summary

BikeVolcano.com specializes in guided bicycle tours of Hawaii Volcanoes National & Bike/Hike Tours to Active Lava Surface Flows. Our Certified National Park Interpretive Guides and support staff will lead you incredible and informative volcano and lava adventures. Bike Down an Active Volcano!!!

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