Whale watching is one of the most spectacular things to do during a visit to Hawaii, especially between the months of December and May. During these months humpback whales return to their shallow, tropical home waters to breed and calve their young after a long summer of feeding. Early in the mornings during January and February are the peak periods for whale sightings, although they can be seen at nearly any time throughout winter and spring. Humpbacks grow to more than 45ft in length, weigh more than 40 tons, and yet are capable of launching themselves out of the water with great ease, making for an impressive sightseeing display. These animals boast immense cultural significance and locals often refer to them as “aumakua” (family guardians).
Hawaii’s whaling history is rooted in the mid 1800s when Maui was the center of the industry, specifically within the port town of Lahaina. Decades of whaling left the humpback species depleted until they became protected under the Endangered Species Act. Bountiful numbers now return to Hawaiian waters on an annual basis for all visitors to see and enjoy.
While humpback whales can be spotted from any shoreline around the state, there are some places that offer better vantage points than others. In addition to shoreline whale watching there are also ample opportunities for boat tours in which professionals take visitors out into the ocean via watercraft for more intimate animal encounters. Although watercraft are required to stay 100 yards away from the whales, they are easily viewed breaching themselves high up into the air. Let’s look at some of the best spots to whale watch around the state.
Whale Watching On Maui
The Auau Channel is considered the best place for whale watching due to its shallow depth and long expanse, running between West Maui, Lanai, and Molokai. During the season, you’ll often see whales breaching the surface on Maui! Search for places to stay in Maui with our vacation rentals on Maui here.
The best shoreline locations:
Papawai Point, between the towns of Ma‘alaea and Lahaina
- The Sanctuary Education Center in Kihei
Whale watching boat tour locations:
- Lahaina Harbor
- Ma’alaea Harbor
- Beaches at Ka’anapali, Kihei, and Wailea
Whale Watching On Oahu
The best shoreline spots and scenic overlooks:
- Makapu‘u Lighthouse near Makapu`u Point, a gated trail and graded hike leads to an overlook
- Halona Blowhole, the second lookout area past Hanauma Bay and Sandy Beach, easily accessible directly from the road
- Hanauma Bay
- Diamond Head Scenic Lookout, a great location due to a higher elevation and easy accessibility
Boat tours can be taken out of ports along any of the island’s western and southern harbors. Search for our Oahu island vacation rentals to plan your vacation.
Whale Watching On Big Island
The Kohala Coast is the best place to see the whales on the main island, equating to more than twice the frequency of sightings compared to any other location. Other locations:
- Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site offers great views along the Kawaihae Harbor
- Lapakahi State Historical Park situated on the northeastern tip of the island, boasting an ideal higher elevation
- Kapa’a Beach Park offers a viewing site at the end of the road as well as covered picnic pavilions for tourist convenience
Big Island offers lots of nature-related things to do, whale watching being a fun and exciting activity to enjoy! Search Big Island vacation rentals with us to make your accommodations planning easy.
Whale Watching On Kauai
- Poipu Beach located on the south shore
- Kilauea Lighthouse located on the north shore
- Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
- Kapa‘a Overlook, situated between Kapa’a town and Kealia Beach
Many boat tours depart out of Na Pali and Poipu on Kauai. We have several vacation rentals on Kauai near popular whale watching boat launch areas – search to find your perfect home or villa today.