Every December through May, North Pacific humpback whales return to Hawaiian waters to breed and give birth after a summer of feeding off the coast of Alaska. These gentle giants can reach 45 to 60 feet in length and 40 tons in weight, and yet are capable of launching themselves out of the water with ease, creating an impressive display for spectators.
Decades of whaling caused the humpbacks to be among the first animals officially classified as endangered, in 1970. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was created in 1992, in an attempt to protect one of their preferred habitats. Since that time, their population has fortunately seen steady growth.
Hawaii has a wide variety of vantage points where whale watching is easy from land. Boat tours departing from all over the islands also allow visitors to take a closer look at these magnificent creatures, known as kohola in Hawaiian.
1) Maui Whale Watching
Whales can frequently be spotted from land anywhere along Maui’s south or west coast during peak season, as the channel running between this area and the neighbor islands of Kahoolawe, Lanai, and Molokai is a favorite humpback hangout. McGregor Point, near the town of Maalaea, is often a particularly good bet.
Some Maui’s best boat tour options include:
- Pacific Whale Foundation, which has tours leaving from Maalaea and Lahaina.
- Trilogy, which departs from Maalaea, Lahaina, and Kaanapali.
- Aloha Kayaks Maui, which enables paddlers to launch from Makena or Olowalu to see humpbacks from a kayak!
2) Oahu Whale Watching
On Oahu, several locations that provide a chance to spot humpbacks are worth a visit for other reasons as well:
- Diamond Head Scenic Lookout and Makapuu Lighthouse also have great hiking.
- Hanauma Bay also has excellent snorkeling.
- At Halona Blowhole, you won’t know whether a whale sighting or the ocean itself is the main attraction!
3) Big Island Whale Watching
On the Kohala Coast during peak season, any day at the beach might result in a humpback sighting. Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site (the name of which translates to “hill of the whale”), Lapakahi State Historical Park, and Kapaa Beach Park are ideal locations for catching a glimpse of Hawaii’s favorite winter visitors.
Some of the Big Island’s best boat tour options include:
4) Kauai Whale Watching
On the north shore of Kauai, the waters off the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge are part of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Likewise, the scenic overlook in the east side town of Kapaa serves as a prime spot for sightings.
The south shore’s Poipu Beach enables visitors to see whales, and several of Kauai’s most enjoyable boat tours also depart from this area. We recommend:
However you choose to see humpback whales during your Hawaiian Island getaway, you won’t soon forget such a once-in-a-lifetime experience!