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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).
Here is a great source of information about Kauai’s convenient Wailua to Kapaa region. This area is known for its abundant coconut palm trees, affordable lodging, many beach parks, Hawaii’s only navigable river, an extraordinary coastal bike path, a long list of restaurants, and lots of adventures.
Just named the #1 resort in Hawaii by Travel + Leisure, Ko'a Kea is a 121-room boutique oceanfront hotel on the south shore. This intimate and romantic resort offers the island’s closest guestrooms to the water, complemented by award-winning service that is both highly personalized and personable.
Premier Kaua'i Vacation Rentals manages spacious 1 and 2 bedroom Condos on Kauai’s Coconut Coast. Choose from a wide variety of Condo units located at Lae Nani, Lanikai, Wailua Bay View, and Hale Awapuhi Villas. We provide direct bookings from our office centrally located in the Kapa'a/Wailua area.
17 Palms Kauai is two vacation rental cottages in a garden setting named by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine as "One of the 20 perfect places to stay in Hawaii and #1 by Trip Advisor; Walk to Wailua Beach by foot path and many restaurants & shops.
Top rated, privately managed Lae Nani beachfront condos on Kauai's Coconut Coast. Well maintained 1, 2, and 3 bedroom oceanfront condos in a peaceful beachside resort, walking distance to shopping, dining, attractions and the coastal path.
Surf lessons at awesome Hanalei Bay! Sandy bottom, long rides. Recommended by Laird Hamilton for surf lessons while on Kauai. Our team utilizes both Hawaiian and Local Instructors, we give you an Indigenous experience, a real Hawaiian experience!
Wyndham Bali Hai is located in the picturesque Princeville community and offers spacious one- and two-bedroom suites that are appointed with full kitchens, dining and living areas and washer/dryer combinations that enable you to enjoy the comforts of home in this tropical paradise.
Set oceanfront along Kauai's Coconut Coast guests enjoy newly remodeled guestrooms and public areas, new pool deck and hot tub, and a variety of amenities including nightly entertainment, complimentary yoga, bicycle rental, and more. Dine on the sand at award-winning Lava Lava Beach Club.