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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Dolphins
Hawaii
Captain Zodiac
74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy #16
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Awarded "2006/2007 C.R.U.I.S.E. Tour of the Year" by Princess Cruises! Captain Zodiac is more than a snorkel tour; it’s a high-speed thrill ride adventure. See dolphins & whales, explore sea caves and see blowholes & unique lava formations.

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Spa Couples Treatment Living Room
Lanai
Hawanawana Spa
Four Seasons Resort Lanai
One Manele Bay Rd
Lanai City, HI 96763
Summary

Re-energize, unwind, and simply surrender to luxurious pampering with grace and skill, our spa professionals provide service of the highest quality creating an unforgettable experience. MAE 1586

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Hawaii Nautical 1
Hawaii
Hawaii Nautical
Summary

Hawaii Nautical is one of Hawaii's largest ocean-activity providers, with a fleet of vessels serving many harbors across Oahu and the Island of Hawaii. We respect the ocean and the ecosystem, and follow strict guidelines so that all marine mammals and wildlife are protected.

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Dolphin Star
Oahu
Dolphin Star
85-374 Farrington Hwy
Waianae, HI 96792
Summary

View wild dolphins on a fabulous eco-tour a world away from Waikiki. Led by our crew of Certified Naturalists you'll enjoy a unique experience, savor a Create-Your-Own Gourmet Burger lunch freshly grilled onboard. Dolphin sightings guaranteed!

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Royal Hawaiian Band
Oahu
Aloha Festivals
2550 Kalakaua Ave. Suite 315
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Aloha Festivals is a statewide non-profit, multi-cultural festival formed in 1946 and held each September. It features over 100 events: parades, street parties, cultural displays and more. Most events free with discounts offered to ribbon wearers.

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PCC1
Oahu
Polynesian Cultural Center
55-370 Kamehameha Highway Suite 1010
Laie, HI 96762
Summary

Voted the #1 paid attraction in Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu's North Shore offers 6 Pacific Island villages and exhibits. Featuring Hawaii's most authentic luau, and our award-winning show, "Hā: Breath of Life.” Visit us for an unforgettable experience great for the whole family.

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Na Pali Sail
Kauai
Blue Dolphin Charters
4353 Waialo Road
Port Allen, HI 96705
Summary

No visit to Kauai is complete without an adventure on Na Pali Coast! Blue Dolphin Charters is proud to run the two largest motor sailing catamarans on Kauai specializing in tours of Na Pali Coast and the forbidden island of Niihau. Let our outstanding crew make your trip an unforgettable experience!

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