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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).
Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels.
We are passionate about helping people better understand these animals and the negative misconceptions that can go along with them- ESPECIALLY SHARKS! Join us on our most popular dive (snorkel), and swim with an array of shark species!
We have tours and private cruises at the Kaneohe sandbar. We provide superb service with aloha for your special excursion. Join us to experience the beautiful sandbar and see the Ko'olau mountains from the ocean, swim with tropical fish and sea turtles!
Swim and snorkel with Hawaiian spinner dolphins, Hawaiian green sea turtles, and reef fish. Seasonal whale watching included. "Hawaii's Finest In-Water Dolphin Experience and Snorkel Adventure." Free underwater camera with every online reservation!
We are a 5 STAR PADI professional development center that offers scuba certification to all walks of life. Our dive shop accommodates a huge selection of scuba, snorkeling and spearfishing equipment. We also have our own dive boat that is located at the Ala Wai boat harbor in the heart of Waikiki.
We are a PADI 5 Star Resort Center offering beginner to advanced SCUBA diving charters seven days a week at two locations on Oahu, Hawaii Kai and in Waikiki near Kewalo Basin Boat Harbor. We offer complimentary roundtrip transportation to and from Waikiki and Honolulu Hotels.
Swim alongside dolphins and snorkel through the clear waters of Oahu’s western shores with pods of 30 to 100 spinner dolphins. We’re taking you on an unforgettable journey to the sea, where you’ll learn about Hawaii’s culture, traditions, and ocean environment.
Escape the crowds and join us on private cruise you won’t soon forget. Go faster and farther than anyone else in town on a private charter for spectacular coastal sightseeing tours, incredible sea life (turtles, fish, dolphins, and whales—in season), and snorkeling. The adventure is up to you!
Lana'i Ocean Sports is committed to excellence by creating lifelong memories through personalized service delivered with Aloha. As stewards and sailors, we perpetuate our Hawaiian culture and protect our environment. As an ‘Ohana, we value each other and inspire integrity, innovation, and community.
We specialize in Snorkeling and Scuba Diving at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (No experience required). We also offer a Swim with Dolphins snorkeling tour on the leeward coast of Oahu.