Hawaii Whale Watching Tips

Each year, the great Humpback Whales migrate some 4,500 miles, from summer feeding grounds in Alaska, to mate in the warm waters of Hawaii.

Hawaii is a popular destination for whale watching because, during mating season, Humpback Whales are more active resulting in elevated surface activity. This whale surface behavior, such as breaching and tail slaps, make for exciting whale watching in Hawaii.

Whale Breaching

5 Tips for an Unforgettable Whale Watching Adventure

Here are 5 simple tips that will help you get the most out of your Hawaii whale watching adventure. So before planning your next vacation, follow these guidelines and you might just have an unforgettable whale encounter!

1. Plan Your Trip During Peak Months

Humpback Whales begin arriving in Hawaii in November and head back to Alaska in late May. If you have planned a Hawaii vacation during this time, you should have no problem spotting whales. However, peak Hawaii whale watching season occurs during February and March. So if you have not made your travel arrangements yet, shoot for these months.

2. Visit Islands Known For Whale Watching

Maui, Kauai and the Big Island are the most popular islands for Hawaii whale watching, so plan to visit one of these islands on your vacation. If you are visiting Oahu, you can see whales there too, they just won't be as abundant.

3. Plan A Boat Tour

Hawaii whale watching tours are ideal for seeing these spectacular animals in their natural habitat. Not only will you be in the whale's environment, but because humpback whales are curious about their surrounding, they will sometimes approach your boat. Plan a Hawaii boat tour to truly get the most out of your whale watching adventure.

Boat tours are available departing from Lahaina Harbor many times throughout the day during whale season. On the Big Island and the island of Kauai, whale-watching opportunities abound with a full schedule of tours provided by seasoned, knowledgeable guides.

Humpback whales may also be observed from land if you prefer solid ground to the deck of a boat. On Kauai the Kilauea Lighthouse, Kealia Lookout and various high-points of land in coastal areas are good places to start. Once you're in the right place, spotting the whales is easy: just look for the majestic plumes of water ("blows") rising in the air and the playful splashes made by these gigantic creatures.

4. Respect their space

In Hawaii, whale watching is an avid activity, and like with most outdoors activities, there are rules. Observers may not approach by vessel or by swimming within 100 yards of a whale (known as the 100-yard minimum rule). However, there is no rule that keeps whales from approaching people. Experienced leaders of Hawaii whale watching tours know how to gently approach these animals and encourage them to come closer.

5. Preserve the Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale preservation is vital because these magnificent creatures almost came to extinction in 1966 after mass commercial whaling during the early 20th century. Today there are approximately 30,000 to 40,000 humpbacks worldwide. Federal laws protect them, but there are things we can all do to help preserve this amazing animal for future whale watching generation.

  • Keep beaches and waters clean and debris-free
  • Participate only in responsible whale watching activities
  • Support efforts to stop illegal whaling
  • Support legislation, research and preservation programs
  • Patronize eco-friendly companies and organizations

You can read books about whales, but with so many opportunities to see them up-close and personal, there's no reason why you shouldn't start thinking now about your next Hawaii whale watching tour. It's fun, it's easy and it's a great experience for the whole family.