Whales In Hawaii
Humpback Whales are some of the earth’s most majestic creatures, with thousands of people traveling to Hawaii from all over the world to catch glimpses of their gigantic bodies breaching the surface and splashing back down into the ocean.
The warm waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are an important destination for the whales who come to breed, give birth and raise their young in a place of safety.
Scientists estimate that two-thirds, approximately 10,000, of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population travel over 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii every year.
Because thousands of humpback whales are born in Hawaiian waters, this makes them kama’aina (native born) and they are treated with great respect.
Beginning in late November through mid to late April each year, thousands of whales migrate home to Hawaii. The best time to see whales in Hawaii is from January to March each year.
Whale watching is a very popular activity for tourists and islanders alike. The locals love seeing the whales come back each year and Hawaiian natives celebrate their arrival.
Whales in Hawaiian culture
Known on the island by the Hawaiian word kohola, whales are revered not only for their size and grace, but also because they are so important to Hawaiian culture.
They play a significant role in Hawaiian legend—including one creation story—and appear in ancient petroglyphs on several islands.
Hawaiian creationism legends say that the kohola was believed to be the manifestation of the God of the sea, Kanaloa who guided the Polynesians to the Hawaiian Islands for safety.
Whales are also revered as ‘aumakua (spiritual protectors) to specific families and were generally viewed as divine beings.
Whale watching on the Big Island
Whales love to play in the water by leaping into the air and slapping their tails in the water. Despite their enormous size humpback whales are surprisingly acrobatic. and watching them jump, turn and splash is a wonderful way to experience Hawaii.
There are multiple places near Dolphin Bay House & Cottage to catch a glimpse of Hawaii's humpback whales. Boat tours and whale-watching cruises are extremely popular, but you can also see them from shore with binoculars.
Of course, as a marine conservation area, Kealakekua Bay, just steps from our vacation home, is a great place from which to view whales in all their grace and glory.
If you want to watch for whales from shore, you will want to walk down early in the morning with a good pair of binoculars. Watch the waters for a spout of steam, which signals they are near the surface and about to breach. Keep your binoculars on that spot and you are likely to see some action.
Other places on the big Island to see whales from shore are: Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Lapakahi State Historical Park and Kapa’a Beach Park. All of these parks are within an hour to 1.5 hour drive from Dolphin Bay.
Seeing whales up close is also an amazing experience and should definitely be on your bucket list when you visit Hawaii.
On the Big Island, you can book one of the many tours on the western side of the island to see whales as well as dolphins, turtles and other marine life in the ocean beyond the Kealakekua Bay.
We've heard great things about Seaquest tours and they are highly recommended on Trip Advisor for all of their adventure tours.
The Whale Song
Humpback whales are known for their magical songs, which travel for great distances through the world's oceans. These sequences of moans, howls, cries, and other noises are quite complex and often continue for hours on end. Scientists are studying these sounds to decipher their meaning. It is most likely that humpbacks sing to communicate with others and to attract potential mates.
Because sound carries further underwater you can hear the whale's songs even if they are several miles away. If you are snorkeling or swimming in the ocean or bay and see a whale in the distance, swim out to where the water is about five feet deep (be careful not to swim in heavy surf) put your head underwater and swim down. You may have to clear your ears to toward the bottom to hear the beautiful moans and cries. You may need to clear your ears to hear more clearly.
To learn more about the whales on the Big Island be sure and check out this article with whale facts, statistics and audio of the whale song.
Plan Your Trip
Whale watching is a very popular activity on the Big Island and throughout Hawaii and the best accommodations book quickly.
The whales begin to show up in the waters of the island in late November and head back to Alaska in early May, but January through March are the best months - with the possibility of seeing up to 10 an hour in some places.
If you are ready to experience these majestic animals and enjoy a winter trip to Hawaii, you will find our Kealakekua Bay vacation home to be the perfect place to stay during your trip. You can book our home for up to seven adults or romantic cottage for two or contact us to learn more.