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It's that time of year! Amidst all of the visiting family members and holiday travels, the other great and majestic visitors are returning to Hawai‘i’s Islands! Today, we're talking about the migration of the North Pacific humpback whale. Each year from December to May, scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawai‘i to breed, calve and nurse their young. Humpback whales, or koholā in the Hawaiian language, can be seen from every island and there are a variety of ways to experience these awe-inspiring animals from both sea and shore. Our friends at the Hawai'i Tourist Board have shared some of their favorite spots on the islands to see these beautiful visitors. And if you are ready to book your own excursions, feel free to look through this list of possibilities through our partners at Project Expedition.
Island of Hawai'i
Over on the island of Hawai‘i, there is an unforgettable storytelling experience aboard the Kalama Kai, Mauna Lani’s 42-foot power boat. This experience is available exclusively to Mauna Lani guests until springtime, when you can survey the horizon for signs of a fluke or breach while learning long-lived legends passed from one generation to another. Another option is in the Waikoloa area out of the Honokohau Harbor. If boats aren’t your thing, you can still catch a glimpse of the humpbacks from the shore at Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site. In addition to whales, dolphins and black-tipped reef sharks are common sightings.
Maui Ocean Center offers the Humpbacks of Hawai‘i Exhibit & Sphere, an integrated exhibit with 4k imagery, 3D active glasses, and a 7.1 surround sound system in a first-of-its-kind 3D Sphere, where you will be transported under the sea for an inside look into the complex and vibrant lives of Maui’s humpback whales in their natural habitat. Those ready to see a whale up close should consider a two-hour whale-watching tour perfect for the entire family. You will experience the sheer thrill of seeing and hearing humpback whales while learning fun facts from whale naturalists and enjoying complimentary snacks and beverages. Pacific Whale Foundation also offers a variety of award-winning whale-watching tours led by certified marine naturalists for a fun and informative interpretation of humpback whale behaviors and characteristics. Looking to give back? You can also volunteer with the Pacific Whale Foundation’s Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program in Maui to help protect whales and other sea life.
If you are headed to O'ahu, you can see the humpback whales via a memorable two-hour roundtrip hike along the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail. You will be rewarded with stunning views of the windward coast and offshore islets of the historic red-roofed Makapu‘u Lighthouse built in 1909. For more shoreline whale-watching experiences, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary hosts the Sanctuary Ocean Count project, an annual signature education outreach and citizen science project, wherein you can help tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior. The Majestic Whale Watching Experience offered by Atlantis Adventures is something you will not want to miss! The tour takes you to the humpbacks aboard a 150-foot vessel with multiple outdoor viewing decks and indoor air-conditioned cabins with large panoramic windows to ensure everyone can get a view of these fascinating creatures.
Lastly, Kaua'i has lots to offer you as whales glide and breach from the water, play with their calves, and sing their songs. There are many boat and charter activity partners that are able to share the beauty of the landscape and these mammals with you. If you're looking to catch a glimpse of humpback whales from the island’s stunning shores, we’ve got you covered. Beachgoers at Poʻipū Beach may spot passing humpback whales from its sandy shores. Along Kauaʻi’s scenic east coast is a 7.3-mile paved trail called Ke Ala Hele Makālae (Coastal Path), where biking and walking enthusiasts can keep an eye out for whales traveling along the coast. Another option located atop a 180-foot ocean bluff on the northernmost point of the main Hawaiian Islands is the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which offers spectacular views to see humpback whales and other wildlife, most notably seabirds rarely seen from land.
So, whether you already have a vacation planned for this time period or are wanting to book something special, you do not want to miss out! We'll help you find some of the best spots to view these amazing creatures with the people you love!
Are you ready for you next Hawai'i adventure?