Scroll to Continue
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).
Let Hawaii Forest & Trail show you an authentic Oahu, utilizing our unparalleled land access and interpretive guiding approach to provoke authentic place-based experiences that illuminate the island’s unique regions through in-depth interactions with our nature and culture. Our Hawaii Oahu tours offer a different perspective.
Queen Emma Summer Palace or Hānaiakamalama, served as a summer retreat for Queen Emma of Hawai‘i, her husband King Kamehameha IV, and their son, Prince Albert Edward. It is now a historic landmark, museum, and tourist site preserved by the Daughters of Hawai‘i.
Experience all the excitement of Waikiki from one incredible location. Steps from the azure blue waters and soft sands of Waikiki Beach, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa offers magnificent personalized services, private lanais, and luxurious amenities.
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.
Outrigger Reef on the Beach combines inviting hospitality, timeless traditions and elegant style to create a distinctive Waikiki resort experience. Dine at two seaside restaurants and enjoy nightly live performances by legends of Hawaiian music.
The Aston Waikiki Beach Tower provides the perfect combination of exclusive condominium living and attentive resort-quality service. Conveniently located near the center of Waikiki’s attractions, the hotel offers easy access to an eclectic mix of exciting shopping, dining, and nightlife.
Join Oahu's original eco-tour company for fun and educational hiking or sightseeing adventure tours. Spectacular scenery, temples, beaches and waterfalls, provide excellent photographic opportunities. Information about the geology, archaeology, mythology and history of Hawaii await you on our tours.
OHANA Waikiki Malia features renovated Malia Tower guest rooms, lobby and common areas, offering fresh surroundings in the heart of Waikiki. Hotel includes an IHOP restaurant and is conveniently located near shopping and dining on Kalakaua Avenue.