Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash

Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash

Where to Go Whale Watching in Hawaii

Shaka Guide

Each winter, humpback whales make their way back to Hawaii’s shores. Yes, you read that right, back - it’s a return for these animals that were born in the islands; sixty percent of all pregnant North Pacific female humpbacks migrate from Alaska to give birth in the warm waters of Hawaii. 

Not only can these mammals call Hawaii home - they are significant in Hawaiian culture as well. Ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs dating back hundreds of years depict the animals and famous historic sites have the Hawaiian words for whale - kohola (humpback whales) and Palaoa (sperm whale) - in the name.  

The time to see these animals up close only happens between the months of December and May. Whether you witness a whale breaching or see a mother with her calves, spotting these gentle giants in the wild is truly a sight to behold. Here are some of the best spots for whale watching in Hawaii. 

Whale Watching on Oahu 

1. Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail 

Makapuu Point - Hawaii Whale Watching GuidePhoto by little plant on Unsplash

This two-mile hiking trail shore is a pristine spot for whale watching. There are multiple overlooks along the way where you can stop to look for whales. The hike is rated easy and is paved the entire way, so it’s perfect for the whole family. When you reach the top you’ll get sweeping views of Oahu’s eastern shore.

RELATED: Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail Travel Guide

2. Diamond Head 

A historic hike where you also might catch a glimpse of some whales? Yes please! Make the roughly 1-mile hike to Diamond Head’s summit where you can look out onto Oahu’s southern shoreline in the hopes of seeing some whales. There’s another lookout just before the summit - we recommend stopping there for a view as well. 

RELATED: Diamond Head Travel Guide

Looking to visit both these stops on Oahu? Check out our East Oahu Shoreline Drive

Whale Watching in Maui

Lahaina - Hawaii Whale Watching Guide Photo by Colton Jones on Unsplash

Maui is a prime spot for whale watching due to the shallow waters in the Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai and Lanai. If you’re visiting Maui and would like to see some humpback Whales we recommend you take a tour with a certified company. There are loads out there, but some to check out are Maui Whale Watch Tours, Pacific Whale Eco Adventures, and Ultimate Whale Watch and Snorkel

Many whale watching excursions begin in Lahaina, which ironically enough used to be a whaling town. Learn more about Lahaina on our West Maui Coastline Driving Tour

RELATED: History of Lahaina: From Whaling to Whale Watching

Whale Watching on the Big Island 

1. Lapakahi State Park 

Big Island’s Kohala Coast is a scenic corner of the island home to a little-known state park, Lapakahi. On a visit to the park you might spot some whales while you’re walking on the beach. But, if you don’t - fear not - you’ll still get to see the remnants of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village. 

2. Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site 

Remember one of the Hawaiian names for whales we told you about earlier? Well, if you don’t we’ll remind you. Kohola means humpback whale. Now, look at the name of this site again. Do you see kohola in it? Puukohala translates to “hill of the whale.” This historic site is an ancient Hawaiian temple built by King Kamahamahaha the Great. While you’re there, not only do you have the chance to see some whales, you’ll learn about the importance of this site and why it played a vital role in unifying the Hawaiian Islands. an excellent site to see whales, with sweeping, elevated views near Kawaihae Harbor. 

You can visit Lapakahi State Park and Puukohala Heiau National Historic Site on Shaka Guide’s Kohala Coast Backcountry Tour

Here’s even more spots to go whale watching on the Big Island. 

RELATED: Big Island Snorkel Spots

Whale Watching in Kauai 

1. Na Pali Coast 

Na Pali Coast - Hawaii Whale Watching Guide Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

The rugged cliffs of the Na Pali Coast offer some of the most spectacular ocean views in all of Hawaii. Whether you choose to hike the entire 22-mile Kalalau Trail along this jagged coastline or just stop by and do the first half-mile, you’ll have a chance to gaze out and look for humpback whales along the way. And, if you don’t feel like hiking there are a number of certified boat companies that can take you whale watching along the coast. Whales and a scenic boat ride along one of the most remote parts of the island - sounds like win, win to us! 

2. Kilauea Point Lighthouse 

Located on a rocky peninsula overlooking Kauai’s north shore, is a historic lighthouse. Oftentimes, Kauai would be the first landfall for ships traveling from the west - that’s what made this point a perfect location for a lighthouse. Now, Kilauea Point is a National Wildlife Refuge home to seabirds as well as Hawaii’s state bird - the nene goose. You can actually visit the lighthouse, and while you’re there, take a peek into the ocean to see if you can spot some Whales!

RELATED: Kilauea Lighthouse: A Historic Wildlife Refuge

Want to visit the Na Pali Coast and Kilauea Lighthouse? Check out our North Shore Kauai Driving Tour

On your whale watching excursion, we’re sure you’ll develop a deeper appreciation for these beloved animals. Unfortunately, due to years of whaling and human interaction humpback whales are considered endangered. If you’d like to help, please learn more about this species here.  



shaka guide app qr code

Download The Shaka Guide App

Get The
Shaka Guide App