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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Maui
Maui Coast Hotel
2259 South Kihei Road
Kihei, HI 96753
Summary

Located in Sunny South Maui just across the street from a six mile stretch of Maui's beautiful and award-winning beaches, the Maui Coast Hotel is the only Premier Full Service Hotel in Kihei, one of Maui's favorite vacation destinations.

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Maui Kaanapali Villas
Maui
Maui Kaanapali Villas
45 Kai Ala Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

Resting beachfront amid 11 acres of tropical gardens in the heart of the Kaanapali Resort area, the resort has a water activity center, two newly-renovated pool areas, a poolside café and a free shuttle to Kaanapali Resort area shopping and activities.

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Aqua Ohia Waikiki Studio Suites
Oahu
Ohia Waikiki Studio Suites
2280 Kuhio Avenue Honolulu
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Situated in the heart of Waikiki, Aqua Ohia Studio Suites is 1 ½ blocks to Waikiki Beach and just steps to the International Marketplace. An affordable option in Waikiki, this hotel offers on-site amenities that include a pool and sun deck, surfboard racks, concierge, WiFi, and a restaurant/bar.

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Wailea Elua Village Lanai View
Maui
Wailea Elua Village - A Destination Residence
3600 Wailea Alanui
Check in with Destination Residences Hawaii 34 Wailea Gateway Place, Suite A102
Wailea, HI 96753
Summary

In the heart of Wailea on popular Ulua Beach, enter into a serene paradise of manicured lawns and gardens with two pools, jetspa, paddle tennis, golf putting green and pavilion. Each one- to three-bedroom feature living/dining area, full kitchen and spacious outdoor lanai with personal BBQ grill.

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White Sands Hotel
Oahu
White Sands Hotel
Summary

Newly renovated guests rooms with an understated elegance that's far from ordinary. Artistic designs are combined with colors that pop for an energetic feel and a hint of mid-century modern character. Ideal for guests looking for an authentic and unique Hawaiian stay.

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Hale O Napohaku
Oahu
Hale O Napohaku
55-625 Kamehameha Highway
Laie, HI 96762
Summary

Vacation Rental on the beach, Laie Bay, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii. Clean, convenient, beautiful beach and swimming area right out your door. Near Laie Shopping Center, BYU-H, Polynesian Cultural Center and Turtle Bay Hilton Resort.

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