Tourists aren’t the only ones who escape to Hawaii in the winters. Humpback whales also migrate to the warm waters of Hawaii, but to breed, give birth, and nurse their young. In fact, it’s estimated that two-thirds of the world’s entire humpback population visits the Islands each year. This means that Hawaii is one of the best places on earth to go whale watching. Seeing a whale is a gratifying and remarkable experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime. Want to witness this for yourself?
Here’s a brief guide of everything you need to know about whale watching in Hawaii.
About Humpback Whales
The whales you’ll see in Hawaii are humpbacks that migrate over 3,000 miles from the waters of Alaska where they spend the warmer months of the year. An adult humpback whale grows to be upwards of 40 feet long and weighs more than 40 tons! Even at birth, humpbacks weigh up to 3,000 pounds. Humpback whales produce a wide variety of sounds, but only the males produce the mysterious and complex whale songs. These songs can be heard underwater from up to twelve miles away.
Humpback whales are called “kohola” by Hawaiians and held in high esteem. Some native Hawaiians even believe that the kohola is an “aumakua,” or family guardian. Since humpback calves are born in Hawaiian waters, the whales are considered to be native born.
The humpback whale is currently still on the endangered species list, but recent efforts to protect the gentle giants of the sea have helped to increase their population. It is estimated that the humpback population in Hawaii has doubled over the past 10 years (so now is a better time to go whale watching in Hawaii than ever!).
Where to Go for Whale Watching in Hawaii
To see whales in Hawaii, you can either go on a tour (probably your best bet for up-close viewing) or watch from land. There are numerous whale watching tours throughout Hawaii, and you can see the whales from any of the islands. Whale watching boats are forbidden from coming within 100 feet of a whale, but you’ll still get a spectacular view of the enormous creatures. If you want to watch from land, the absolute best place to see whales is in the Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. Maui is usually considered the best island for whale watching.
When to Go Whale Watching in Hawaii
The first whales will reach Hawaii in December, and the last whales will be gone by May. However, their peak season is really between January and early April—so this is when you should go! Do not go to Hawaii in the summer expecting to see the magnificent humpbacks, they’ll be long gone.
• If you’re planning to snap photographs, make sure you use a quick shutter speed and a long lens.
• Whale watching boat tours can be a bit rough. If you are prone to seasickness, take appropriate medications ahead of time. It is also suggested that you don’t eat within a half hour of the tour
• If you want to hear the whale songs, check with your tour company to make sure they have hydrophones to broadcast the sounds.
• If going on a boat tour, bring a light, water-resistant jacket; expect ocean winds and mists.
• Make sure to watch for spinner dolphins as well. These dolphins usually ride in the bow waves of the boat.
• Be patient. There are plenty of whales to be seen!