Scroll to Continue
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).
Situated in a tranquil tropical setting in Kailua-Kona, the Wyndham Mauna Loa Village awaits your arrival with spacious accommodations. Moreover, it offers amazing amenities that include 6 outdoor swimming pools, 6 whirlpool tubs, 11 tennis courts, laundry facilities, and children's activities.
An inclusive exploration aboard a 36-guest ship of the islands of Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Hawaii. Watch marine life; “talk story” with locals; enjoy exclusivity; and spend time at play—kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, and snorkeling.
Hawaii Island Retreat is unique among Hawaii destinations, spas, and eco-retreats. Set among evergreens and ocean breezes along Hawaii's Kohala coast, our 50 acre spa retreat offers luxury accommodations in complete harmony with nature.
Nestled among pristine fairways and lava rock fields within the tropical haven of Waikoloa on Hawaii’s Big Island. Spacious two-bedroom suites exude comfort and style with all the conveniences of home.
Kohala Coast Hawaii oceanfront luxury hotel and resort with white sand lagoon, Hawaiian Spa Without Walls, golf, tennis, five restaurants, extensive meeting and event facilities, year-round children’s program, tennis.
For over 50 years, Mauna Kea Resort and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel have been the benchmark by which all others on Hawaii Island are measured. Luxury accommodations, exceptional golf and remarkable service create the timeless magic that is Mauna Kea.
Nestled upcountry among 30-acres of lush tropical gardens, our Kona bed and breakfast offers spectacular ocean views and traditional Island luxury on a private Kona Coffee estate. Choose from elegant rooms, suites, a private cottage or our newly-renovated private Red Barn.
Royal Sea Cliff Kona by Outrigger rises high above the sea on a dramatic lava rock bluff, offering panoramic views of the Kona coast of Hawaii Island. Large studios, one- and two-bedroom condominiums feature full kitchens, washer/dryer and airy balconies.
Nestled among pristine fairways and lava rock fields within the tropical haven of Waikoloa on Hawaii’s Big Island. Spacious and luxurious one and two-bedroom suites exude comfort and style with all the conveniences of home.