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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Hotel Coral Reef
Kauai
The Hotel Coral Reef
1516 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746
Summary

Since opening in 1956, Hotel Coral Reef has been part of life on the island of Kaua'i and our enviable beachfront location ensures you will enjoy beautiful, uninterrupted views and access to the breathtaking coastline of "'the garden island".

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Kalapaki Beach
Kauai
Kauai Marriott Resort
3610 Rice Street
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

Nestled on a quarter mile of white sand beach, Kaua`i Marriott Resort offers an irresistible combination of Hawaiian hospitality and luxurious accommodations. Set within acres of lush exotic gardens, the resort centrally located to the island's many outdoor adventures and minutes from the airport.

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One bedroom Vacation Rental Suite
Kauai
Poipu Plantation Resort
1792 Pee Rd
Koloa, HI 96756
Summary

Come to Po'ipu Beach on the sunny south shore of Kauai. Quiet, private, affordable Kauai paradise, Poipu Plantation is situated on an acre of Gardens, offers Kauai Cottage Style Vacation Rental suites with full kitchen or four Bed and Breakfast Suites in a 1930s Inn.  All in Air Conditioned comfort.

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Standard Room with One King Bed, Ceiling Fan
Kauai
Kauai Palms Hotel
2931 Kalena Street
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

The Kauai Palms Hotel is clean, affordable and just 5 minutes from the Lihue Airport. Standard room rates start at $95/night. Deluxe rooms and rooms with kitchenettes and full kitchens are available. Walk to dining and the white sands and surf of Kalapaki Beach are just minutes away!

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Surf Poipu
Kauai
Poipu Beach Surf School
Summary

Poipu Beach Surf School is owned and operated by professional waterman and former pro bodyboarder Doug Muraoka. Poipu Beach Surf School is committed to providing each of its guests with safe, fun, friendly surfing experience. Poipu Beach Surf School teaches people how to surf at the Sheraton beach in Poipu

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Gaylord's Ribs
Kauai
Gaylord's at Kilohana
3-2087 Kaumualii Highway
Lihue, HI 96766
Summary

Gaylord’s offers one of Kauai’s most beautiful settings for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch. Our kitchen uses only the freshest, seasonal ingredients supporting our local farmers and fishermen. Our 67-acre sustainable farm provides much of the produce and herbs used in our dishes and cocktails.

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