Whale Facts and Behaviors

Hawaii's humpback whales put on quite a show, from breaches and tail slaps to head lunges and spy hops.

Name that move
You don't have to be on a boat to spot whales. On a clear day, you can often see whale spouts as far as a mile off shore. Just look for the white puff hanging in the air contrasted against the dark ocean. Keep a pair of binoculars handy as you head to the beach or tour around in your car. For prime viewing locations and tips for each island see the links below.

Here's a list of the most common whale behaviors seen in Hawaiian waters.

Blow or Spout
Adult humpback whales surface every 7 to 15 minutes to breathe, but can stay submerged for up to 45 minutes. Calves must rise to the surface every three to five minutes.

Head Rise or Spy Hop
Look for a head rising out of the water. Some believe the whale might be checking out what's going on up top. They might be as curious as you are.

Tail Slap
Put your camera on video and hit "record" when you see a whale raise its tail fluke out of the water. Then get ready for several slaps.

Pectoral Slap
Humpbacks slap the water with one or two pectoral fins. Some believe this is a communication signal to other whales.

Head Lunge
If you see a whale lunge forward with their head raised up above the water, it's a competitive display of strength.

Peduncle Slap
This is a sight to see. Whales throw their peduncle (the part connecting their tail and body) up above the water and bring it down with a mighty slap.

Fluke Up Dive
Like a snorkeler getting ready to dive down, the tail rises up in an upward arch and then slowly rolls underwater to head for the depths.

With a burst of strength, the whale uses its tail to launch itself out of the water and then lands back onto the surface with a spectacular splash.

Humpback Whale Facts
Scientific name: Megaptera novaeangliae
Type of whale: Baleen
Hawaiian name: Kohola
Weight 40-45 tons
Length 45 feet
Life span: 40 - 60 years
Gestation: 10 - 12 months

Hawaii's Humpback Whale Population
The estimated pre-whaling population of humpbacks in Hawaiian waters was 15,000 to 20,000. Thanks to strong legislation and the efforts of dedicated organizations such as the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, these gentle giants are making a come back with an estimated 12,000 whales migrating to Hawaii every year.

To explore deeper, click on the links below.

Cultural Significance of Whales in Hawaii

To learn more about whale watching on each island, browse the links below:

Kauai Whale Watching
Oahu Whale Watching
Molokai Whale Watching
Lanai Whale Watching
Maui Whale Watching
Hawaii Island Whale Watching
Whale Watching with Flip Nicklin

To learn more about Humpback Whales in Hawaii and about the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, visit http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov