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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).
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.
Aikane Plantation Coffee is 100% Hawaiian gourmet coffee, grown on our family estate located on the slopes of majestic Mauna Loa Mountain in the District of Ka’u.
This ocean-view restaurant offers breakfast and an extensive steak and seafood dinner menu. With an emphasis on local ingredients, Chef Joseph Yaple showcases prime and wagyu beef from Snake River Farms and local Hawaiian catch, prepared to perfection.
This beautiful, casual dining restaurant is perfect for a leisurely breakfast or informal lunch or dinner, great family dining. Bountiful buffets are offered daily. Located in the Rainbow Tower.
Take in the glow of Diamond head at golden hour and the magic of the Honolulu city lights from an all-new luxury powerboat! Ocean and You is the premier Oahu experience for an intimate and upscale sunset dinner cruise.
Burger Shack is a casual, oceanfront hideaway where guests can savor signature burgers, whimsical shakes and a selection of featured cocktails, craft and local beer.
Our Waikiki restaurant offers daily breakfast buffets. In the evening, the oceanfront location features Modern American small plates with local ingredients seven nights a week and a special dinner buffet Friday-Sunday.
The Hideaway at Kapalua Bay offers local fare and island inspired cocktails. The resort’s casual dinner venue is an intimate gathering space ideal for friends, neighbors and family alike.
Enjoy fresh garden salads, kiave grilled hamburgers, a variety of other sandwiches and assorted beverages at this poolside and oceanview restaurant which includes a swim-up bar.
Located poolside, the Tiki Grill serves burgers, sandwiches, and snacks for a perfect outdoor picnic. Chicken Caesar Salad, chilled tropical fruits, delicious appetizers and ice-cold soft drinks are served with aloha. Complimentary entertainment nightly.