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Whale watching in Hawaii

What is it that we find so appealing about Hawaii? Maybe it's the clear, cool water and the warm, inviting weather. Or perhaps it's the friendly atmosphere and strong sense of community that soaks through the entire population. Whatever the magical secret to Hawaii's appeal is, it turns out that humans aren't the only mammals to feel the pull to the eight islands that make up the 50th state. All of the things that we humans love about Hawaii make it the perfect stomping ground for some of the largest and most majestic creatures that roam the earth - whales. 

The Hawaii Tourism Authority estimates that approximately two thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population travels to Hawaii every year, primarily for breeding and raising their calves. Perhaps it isn't surprising that humans and whales share a similar taste in holiday destinations. After all, according to a recent US study published in Science, we may even be descended from a common ancestor! 

Where to go

Whales can be spotted all over Hawaii, but for the greatest chance of seeing a breaching humpback it's best to visit the island of Maui (Hawaii's second largest). The typical season for whales is from November to May, but activity tends to peak January and March. For the landlubbers among you, the animals can be seen from the shore, with multiple scenic lookout points positioned all over the island. The most well-known zone for a spot of whale watching is the area of coast separating Ma'alaea and Lahaina. Maui Whale Watching specifically recommends the stretch of Highway 30 between the two towns.

For the best experience though, you'll want to hop aboard a boat, or even jump in a canoe, and head out into the whales' natural habitat to get a more up close and personal experience. There are dozens of options available, ranging from snorkelling expeditions to seafaring barbecue trips with open bars, so you'll definitely be able to find the one that suits you.


You probably know them as humpback whales, but to the people of Hawaii, they are kohola, and are very special animals indeed. It's estimated that the creatures have been visiting Hawaii for well over a thousand years, and there are in fact ancient petroglyphs (carvings on volcanic rock) that actually show humans riding on the whales' backs.

Whale tooth jewellery is commonly associated with royalty in Hawaii, and there are even places throughout the island named after the kohola, reflecting the animal's perceived position as the reincarnation of cherished ancestors, as well as the earthly embodiment of a Hawaiian demigod.

More than any of that though, the humpbacks really are magnificent creatures. As powerful as they are intelligent, seeing them in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Hawaii is the best place to go to have the kohola take your breath away.