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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Safety Equipment - Always prepared, KHT provides specialty hiking equipment as needed!
Kauai
Kauai Hiking Tours
5485 Koloa Rd.
Unit #1692
Koloa, HI 96756
Summary

Kauai Hiking Tours offers day hikes, backpacking trips and driving tours on Kauai Island. Our local guides are passionate about sharing their knowledge with aloha. We welcome adventurers of all ages & ability levels - several options of beginner, intermediate, and advanced tours are available.

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Fair Wind Cruising
Hawaii
Fair Wind
78-7130 Kaleiopapa Street
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Snorkel with award-winning Fair Wind Cruises! Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, our snorkeling tour travels up the Kona Coast to snorkel at historic Kealakekua Bay marine sanctuary, site of Captain Cook Monument. Our family friendly tours will be the highlight of your Kona, Hawaii vacation!

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Sub
Hawaii
Atlantis Submarines Kona
Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel
75-5660 Palani Road #304
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
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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Grinding cacao beans into chocolate
Kauai
Garden Island Chocolate
5-2719 Kuhio Highway
Kilauea, HI 96754
Summary

Garden Island Chocolate is the premier gourmet Hawaiian chocolate company. We make organic dark chocolate bars,(85% cacao) chocolate truffles and a hot chocolate drink. We have guided chocolate farm tours and tastings every Mon, Wed, & Friday at 9:30am. The tours are very popular so book in advance.

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HWC Story Wall at the Hoopulama Science and Discovery Center
Hawaii
Hawaii Wildlife Center
Summary

The Hawai‘i Wildlife Center (HWC) is a state-of-the-art native wildlife hospital and rehabilitation center. The facility features a science and discovery center and retail store. Science center admission is free. Donations are welcome. Public hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Gift Shop
Hawaii
Akatsuka Orchid Gardens
11-3051 Volcano Road
Volcano, HI 96785
Summary

Explore the Big Islands largest collection of Orchids. Over 1,000 on display in our Orchid Maze & for purchase. Join a behind the scenes Orchid Farm Tour and Tasting. Plant and take home your own baby orchid and leave room for dessert as you sample our Poha Ice Cream and shop our unique giftshop!

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Plantation View
Hawaii
Kona Lisa Coffee
83-5475 Painted Church Rd
Captain Cook, HI 96704
Summary

Kona Lisa is 100% Kona, Estate coffee. We hand pick, sun-dry, custom roast for a remarkably smooth cup. Stop by the farm, or visit us at the Kona Lisa Coffee & Tea Bar at neighboring Paleaku Gardens! Enjoy a cup of Kona Lisa while strolling through the scenic Peace Gardens in the heart of Kona!

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