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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Carthaginian
Maui
Atlantis Submarines Maui
658 Front Street, Suite 175
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

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!

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Mana Kai Maui
Maui
Mana Kai Maui (CRH)
362 Huku Lii Pl
Kihei, HI 96753
Summary

Oceanfront one- and two-bedroom condos located on the border of Kihei and Wailea. The luxurious Mana Kai Resort sits on Keawakapu Beach and enjoys amenities like an oceanfront pool, state-of-the-art fitness center, ground floor restaurant/bar, yoga studio, and so much more! Book exact condos!

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Cabins, 2 BR / 2 BA each
Maui
Ala Kukui Hana Retreat
4224 Hana Highway
Hana, HI 96713
Summary

Ala Kukui is a cultural center for native Hawaiian spiritual and intellectual advancement. Our retreat space offers a unique opportunity to engage with our local community of cultural practitioners who pay respect to the environment through traditional Hawaiian practices.

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On Maui's Kaanapali Coast
Maui
Aston at Papakea Resort
3543 Lower Honoapiilani Road
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

A garden paradise on magical Maui. This oceanfront haven is set within 13 acres of freshwater ponds, picturesque bridges, expansive lawns, and tropical landscaping. Each unit has a full kitchen and an in-room washer/dryer. Enjoy 2 pools and hot tubs, bbq grills, putting greens and tennis courts.

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Aston Kaanapali Shores - Oceanfront Resort
Maui
Aston Kaanapali Shores
3445 Lower Honoapiilani Road
Lahaina, HI 96761
Summary

This oceanfront resort combines the comfort & convenience of a condominium with hotel-caliber services. Aston Ka’anapali Shores rests on 10 acres of tropical gardens. Resort offers a restaurant, spa, fitness center, BBQ grills, tennis & pickle ball courts, shuffle boards, 2 heated pools & jet spas.

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