Planning a trip to the Hawaiian Islands with a goal in mind to see humpback whales? Luckily, during the whale season from November to May (with peak season from January through March), the giants of the sea are abundant in Hawaii’s waters, easily viewable with a variety of whale watching cruises. Keep reading for our top tips for whale watching in Hawaii, as well as some background on their history in the Pacific Ocean.
Humpback whales depart from the icy waters of Alaska once autumn arrives, seeking the warmer waters of Hawaii for a better environment to mate, give birth, and nurture their young calves. These whopping giants of 40 tons and 60 foot length make a 6,000 mile long journey of 6-8 weeks from Alaska to Hawaii, one of the longest migration routes of any mammal in the world. The Hawaiian waters are a crucial habitat for humpback whales – they love the Hawaiian coast for its lack of predators, warm temperatures, and sheltered topography that protects them from powerful ocean swells and turbulent conditions. The islands of Maui and Big Island are particularly optimal habitats for humpback whales, but within the last 10 years they have also spread to occupy the waters off of Kauai and Oahu as well.
What role do whales play in Hawaiian culture?
The whale species has longed remained culturally significant for Native Hawaiians. Called kohola in the Hawaiian language, Native Hawaiians revered whales as responsible for aiding the Polynesians in discovering the Hawaiian Islands many centuries ago. They exalt whales as spiritual protectors and even divine beings, and ancient Hawaiian ali’i (royal chiefs) often wore necklaces made out of whale teeth because they were believed to possess power, strength, and a spiritual energy from gods and ancestors alike.
What’s the best way to see humpback whales in Hawaii?
A boat tour is undoubtedly the best way to spot whales in Hawaii due to their quick ease of navigation to the best spotting locations to see whales blow, tail slap, breach, and dive.
The coastal waters of Maui are one of the very best whale watching destinations in the world. At TravelShack, we offer 5 different whale watching experiences on the island of Maui. Are you a photography lover looking to get stunning photographs of a whale breach or tail fin slaps? Our Whale Photo Safari from Lahaina is your ideal choice with a professional wildlife photographer on board to teach you expert techniques for photographing these giants. If you’re seeking a more education-oriented experience, our Whale Watching Cruise with Researchers will not disappoint; you can observe humpback whales while simultaneously learning about current research efforts from onboard marine biologists. The most popular tours are on large doubledecker boats leaving multiple times a day from either Lahaina (closest to Kaanapali) or Ma’alaea (closest to Kihei/Wailea). For a more intimate experience, a sailing catamaran cruise from Lahaina is also offered.
On the Big Island, the warm waters off both the Kona and Kohala coasts offer ideal habitats for whales to visit and for humans to observe them. We offer two separate cruises that explore these coasts with guaranteed whale sightings (and also spinner dolphins, sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles if you’re lucky!), onboard marine naturalists to educate guests about these gentle giants, and spacious sturdy catamarans for your comfortable viewing. Compare and book our two whale watching experiences here.
If you dream to witness one of the largest mammals on Earth, your next trip to Hawaii will provide the perfect opportunity to do so. With whale watching season in full swing, don’t miss your chance to book our wide variety of whale watching tours catered to your interests, schedule, location, and budget.
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