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

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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Royal Hawaiian Band
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Aloha Festivals
2550 Kalakaua Ave. Suite 315
Honolulu, HI 96815
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Aloha Festivals is a statewide non-profit, multi-cultural festival formed in 1946 and held each September. It features over 100 events: parades, street parties, cultural displays and more. Most events free with discounts offered to ribbon wearers.

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Hawaii Okinawa Center
94-587 Ukee St
Waipahu, HI 96797
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The Hawaii Okinawa Center (HOC) is the “home” of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association. The Hawaii United Okinawa Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to promote, perpetuate and preserve Okinawan culture. For more information, visit www.huoa.org.

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Fresh Hawaiian wedding leis, bouquets and flowers, delivered locally in Hawaii, Nationwide, or to Canada. Simply place your order in advance at HawaiiFlowerLei.com, select your desired delivery date, and we'll make sure your order is delivered fresh and beautiful for your special day, guaranteed.

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HAWAII Magazine
1000 Bishop Street Ste #405
Honolulu, HI 96813
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HAWAII Magazine is an award winning bi-monthly publication that takes you "off the beaten path" to experience the Islands' culture, people, places, beauty, food and history. Written and produced in Hawai'i, this multi-platform brand inspires & guides those who travel to Hawai'i.

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We have the knowledge and expertise to help you meet your meeting objectives, deliver ROI, and provide imaginative solutions. Whether you are in need of a few things, or seeking full service options, Peerless Host and Waikiki Beach Activities are ready to serve you!

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NMG Network
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NMG Network is a cloud-based broadcasting company producing and aggregating original content including shows, films, music, and events. We utilize online, in-room hotel, resort, and luxury residential distribution channels to reach our audiences. With the mission to empower the modern mindset through dynamic storytelling, NMG's vision is to be a global leader in content development that fosters understanding of cultures, improves the lifestyle of our audiences, and offers captive, curated, and controlled solutions for our partners.

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