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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).
Valley Isle Excursions takes you on one of the most breathtaking drives on earth down the road to Hana Maui. Spectacular cliffs, bamboo jungles, hawaiian waterfalls, tropical scenery and colorful fragrant flowers are part of our "Heavenly Hana" tour.
Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels. It's like swimming in a giant aquarium, but staying dry the whole time!
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.
Gorgeous oceanfront oceanview 2-br, 2-ba condo & small, peaceful B&B with views of Maalaea Bay, a short walk from Maui's longest beach. Delicious island breakfast (at B&B), lush gardens and warm aloha await you.
Maui's Boutique Bed and Breakfast is nestled in the heart of historic Lahaina Town. This 18 room inn with turn-of-the-century style is footsteps from the ocean. It has antique charm combined with modern amenities where guests experience its quiet grace.
Offering daily snorkel tours to Molokini Crater and Coral Gardens. The Four Winds II has been deemed Maui's favorite family fun boat and offers the BEST snorkeling tours on Maui! Great for kids of all ages. Enjoy our glass-bottom viewing room & water slide!
Bamboo Valley Inn is a bed & breakfast nestled in a tropical hidden valley on Maui's North Shore community of Haiku.
Located steps away from Kā`anapali Beach Hotel's sunny shore, the new water activity center will bring Hawaiian culture to popular ocean activities such as surfing, stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling, conch shell blowing and more!
A tropically landscaped private estate located just above Wailea, offering a one-bedroom ocean view vacation cottage and 2 different bed and breakfast suite accommodations. Close to Maui's nicest Beaches. Rates from $119 to $199/night At Dreams Come True on Maui we live Aloha everyday.
Live butterfly farm and educational tours. Hands on tours involving the entire life cycle of the butterfly including eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies. See some of the wildlife found on the farm. Surround yourself with live butterflies in Hawaii’s only live butterfly house.