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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).
Explore Maui Nui’s ocean environment with the experts at Pacific Whale Foundation through PacWhale Eco-Adventures top-rated Whalewatches, as well as award-winning snorkel cruises to Molokini & Turtle Arches, Lanai and Honolua Bay; Dolphin Watch ecotours; Sunset Dinner and Cocktail Cruises.
Located on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki, and just steps away from Waikiki Queen's Surf beach is the Queen Kapiolani Hotel. Imagine walking up to an unobstructed view of Diamond Head, the ocean and/or a view of Waikiki. A major transformation of the hotel will be completed in Summer 2018.
Waikiki Marina Resort at the Ilikai is perfectly situated for exploring the beautiful island of Oahu. It provides easy access to Waikiki, one of the world's most beautiful beaches and Ala Moana Center. Its amenities include an outdoor swimming pool, spa, restaurant, fitness center and more.
Opened in July 2016, the island's premier new luxury resort, Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina welcomes you to an authentic Hawaiian Experience, deeply rooted in cultural tradition, yet alive with the excitement of the future.
At "Ka'anapali Folly" you will enjoy resort amenities and breathtaking views from our well-appointed condo. We are located in West Maui along the ocean's edge of the famous Ka'anapali Beach. Whether traveling as a couple, with a group of friends or as a family there is something for everyone.
A local favorite, Pagoda Hotel is an affordable urban hotel near Ala Moana Center and central Honolulu. The hotel is close to shopping, dining, Downtown Honolulu, the Hawaii Convention Center, and Waikiki. On-site amenities include a pool, meeting/banquet facilities, and Pagoda Floating Restaurant.
Privately nestled against historic Black Rock promontory, Sheraton Maui is set amid 23 lush tropical acres on world famous Kaanapali Beach. The oceanfront resort offers 508 newly renovated guestrooms, exquisite dining, and spectacular water activities.
OHANA Waikiki East is conveniently located in central Waikiki and features guest rooms and suites with kitchenettes and three restaurants. The full-service hotel is minutes from Waikiki Beach and adjacent to the International Market Place.
This limited service con-tel was completely restored in 2018. The 52 individually owned studios and 1 bedroom units vary widely in style. They are uniquely furnished with many options to choose from. All rooms feature private lanai’s, ceiling fans and usual cool northeast trade winds. All rooms also come with fully appointed customized kitchens and bathrooms for your convenience.