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

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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UTVs
Lanai
Lanai Adventure Center
Summary

Experience Lanai by Four Seasons and explore your own 90,000 acres island. Enjoy breath taking views of Lana'i's uplands and embrace its cultural and historical offerings through a 2-hour guided UTV tour. Ride horseback and discover untouched Hawaii on the one-of-a-kind island. Tours daily.

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Napali Kai 3
Kauai
Makana Charters and Tours
4515 Alawai Road
Waimea, HI 96796
Summary

Makana Charters is the only Na Pali tour company offering personalized or private morning and afternoon tours on the Na Pali coast on your choice of three vessels - a 32 or 12 person catamaran, or an adventurous tour on our shaded raft. Explore the sea caves, get under waterfalls, and snorkel.

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Daily Guided Waterfall Canyoneering Adventures
Maui
Rappel Maui
Summary

This exciting outdoor adventure takes you to a private rainforest, halfway to Hana, where you'll gear up like a pro with your guides and walk down secret tropical waterfalls & jungle cliffs. No experience is necessary. Tour includes transportation, gear (including footwear), bottled water, lunch.

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Mauna Lani Spa Hale
Hawaii
Mauna Lani Spa
68-1365 Pauoa Rd
Kohala Coast, HI 96743
Summary

FIRE & ICE - from the peaks of Mauna Kea to the lava of Kilauea, the spa’s treatments draw from the elements of the land. Outdoor gardens feature hale and lava rock soaking tubs. www.maunalani.com

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4x4 - View
Oahu
North Shore EcoTours
66-560 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712
Summary

NSET is a Native Hawaiian owned business focusing on cultural education through Hawaiian aina. Our mission is "to preserve the cultural integrity of Oahu's natural resources by creating fun & engaging tours for guests." We operate on private conservation lands & feature the best eco-tour guides.

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Snorkel Adventures!
Hawaii
Kona Ocean Adventures
74-380 Kealakehe Pkwy
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

With Kona Ocean Adventures we are not just another tour but a true adventure every time you step aboard our boats. Boutique outfit: Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, whale watching, sunset cruise, manta ray night snorkel and dive. You have come to the right place! Private charters are our specialty.

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Beekeeping Farm Tour
Hawaii
Big Island Bees
82-1140 Meli Rd
Suite 102
Captain Cook, HI 96704
Summary

Come visit our honey & bee farm in Captain Cook! Take a beekeeping farm tour & join us as we open a beehive. Sample our organic honeys, all produced from rare blossoms found on the Big Island, and browse our store and museum full of honey, beeswax products and beekeeping memorabilia.

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