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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Parasail Kona
Hawaii
UFO Parasail
Summary

Since 1985, UFO Parasail has been bringing exciting ocean activities to the islands. UFO Parasail utilizes state-of-the-art winch boats to float you on and off the back of the boat for safe, dry landings.

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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.

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Hawaii
Kona Brewing Company
74-5612 Pawai Pl
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Hawaii's largest craft brewery, distributed in Hawaiian Islands, throughout mainland U.S., Japan. Restaurants on Big Island and Oahu serve craft beer and innovative, local cuisine. Outdoor & indoor air-conditioned seating. Extensive retail.

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Hawaii
Rays on the Bay
78-128 Ehukai Street
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

At Rays on the Bay – the only oceanfront restaurant in the world with manta ray viewing – fresh local seafood, farm-to-table cuisine and handmade artisan pizzas come together with live music, romantic sunsets, a fun rum bar and fire pit lounges for a truly sumptuous experience.

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Learn More About The Cultural Significance Of Whales in Hawaii

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