Incredible Moment Captured: Watch Humpback Whale Birth Near Lahaina

Free Whale Watching in Hawaii | 2022 Season Underway | See Amazing Video

Humpback whales have returned, and with that comes our ideas for where to enjoy free whale watching in Hawaii. The first sighting of the season took place early, in October, between Maui and Molokini. Starting each November, the annual data collection begins, which has been in place since the 1980s. That monitors the mammals’ annual migration, which starts in Alaska, and how they are being impacted by shifting prey and climate change, among other things.

Each fall, up to 12,000 Humpbacks will travel 3,000 miles each way during their migration from Alaska to Hawaii. From now through Spring, you’ll find it relatively easy to spot giant Humpbacks on your Hawaii vacation. The incredible Humpbacks weigh up to 90,000 lbs. and are up to 40 feet in length. This is a sight that no local or Hawaii visitor ever tires of seeing. All heads turn to enjoy this most amazing sight.

It’s possible to see whales on dry land for free and without the risk of getting seasick (a definite issue for some in Hawaii’s occasionally rough waters). Park yourself along a popular shoreline below, and get ready for the adventure. If you’re able to capture a photo of the fast-moving behemoths, you’re in luck. It’s quite a challenge with the speed of these beautiful creatures. But with the large number in the state during Hawaii whale season, there should be many opportunities to capture the perfect photo.

Free Whale Watching in Hawaii | 2022 Season Underway

Big Island Whale Watching

Our personal best Big Island whale watching sightings have occurred up and down the Kohala coast. Friends have also mentioned that they find them at Hilo and Kawaihae. We have also visited Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, which sits elevated and offers a great vantage point. Hilo Bay is another popular spot to see whales.

Kauai Whale Watching

Kauai whale viewing is available around the entire island. Places to look for whales include Poipu Beach Park and all south shore Kauai beaches, as well as north of Kapaa on the east side and from Kilauea to the Napali Coast on the north shore.

Maui Whale Watching

Maui is famous for perhaps the best whale watching in Hawaii. It takes place at the hub of Hawaii whaling in the 1800s, which almost brought the species to extinction. Now the island is renowned for incredible whale-watching opportunities. Locations all along the west and south shores are considered prime. We’ve spotted them at Pohaku Beach Park.

Also, plan to stop in Kihei at NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Docents will provide great information and free help to get you whale watching.

Oahu Whale Watching

You won’t have to go far from Honolulu to see whales. We’ve enjoyed whale watching near Diamond Head, from Sandy Beach to Makapuu, at Hanauma Bay, and generally along the south and west-facing shores.

Recent Decline in Sightings

Whale experts continue to check for a drop in sightings of humpbacks, which have declined by at least 50% over the past five years. This doesn’t necessarily signify a decrease in migration or other issues, but the decline is concerning enough for scientists to look further. With many variables, it isn’t clear if the whales are choosing the less inhabited and monitored Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, whether they have reached a natural plateau in our area or other possible issues. What is clear is that we aren’t seeing as many of them in the same places that we’ve been expecting.

Whales in Hawaii |  More Info

Did you know that there are also killer whales here in Hawaii?

You can learn more about Humpback whales from NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources and the American Cetacean Society.

Please share your best  Hawaii whale-spotting experiences.

Updated 11/27/21

Featured image credit NOAA. Inline image from Beat of Hawaii.

14 thoughts on “Free Whale Watching in Hawaii | 2022 Season Underway | See Amazing Video”

  1. We like Makapuu Lighthouse for whale watching since it also gives us a higher vantage point. They have permanent binoculars at the whale lookout point, but the optics are not as good as when it was new.

  2. The only time I have actually seen a whale fully breech was while sitting on Anini beach nearly 2 years ago. I was talking to my son-in-law and we both saw it. Breathtaking.

  3. Aloha, guys. We were at NOAA’s Marine Sanctuary visitor center in Kihei just one month ago and it was VERY closed. There was yellow tape blocking off the stairs and decks, and huge sand drifts in the parking lot. We will be back there again in less than two weeks. I hope they’ll be open by then but I’d be pretty surprised. Fingers crossed tho!
    Mahalo for all the great info you provide!

    1. Hi Susan.

      Thanks. Yes, that’s right, it is closed, as we also noted in the post. Hopefully, it will open again soon.


  4. We go to Maui every January / February to see the whales. This past February we took 3 whale watching excursions and were rewarded with scores of sightings. It is amazing to even just sit on the beach and see them breaching just a few hundred yards offshore. We’ll be back in about 6 weeks!

    Aloha, BOH!

  5. Hello, John & Denise on vacation from Valencia CA we’re watching from the lanai in Kapaa Thursday afternoon and observed a humpback breaching approximately 4-500 yards offshore. This was about 5-530 in the evening.

  6. Hi!
    My husband and I went to the Big Island during mid October of 2017. (We stayed on the Kona side). This coming late November we are planning a trip there, but staying in Hilo. We are dying to see whales. Our Airbnb is overlooking the ocean. We’re hoping to spot one from our place. Any advise would greatly be appreciated.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Debbie.

      We’ve seen whales all over the Kohala coast of the Big Island, but specifically have no suggestions and aren’t sure about Hilo.


  7. We have done a tour on Maui in 2003 and saw whales. My advice? Don’t try to take photos. Live in the moment. I missed ‘seeing’ them because I had my camera in front of my eyes so much!

    We have seen them from shore on the Big Island several times. As you say, one NEVER TIRES of the sight! We will be back to the Big Island early next year and hope to see more of these wondrous creatures.

    Thanks for the post.

  8. Hi, I’m planning a Hawaii vacation in May 2018. We will be flying from IAD(Dulles) to HNL. We like to leave the same day as the cruise, what is the latest time our flight should land at HNL to have enough to get to our cruise ship (NCL)? It looks like our ship leaves at 7:00 pm.

    Thank you!


    1. Hi Linda.

      That is possible but tricky. We’ve checked in for the ship at about noon, and Saturday afternoon is a very enjoyable time on board. Wouldn’t suggest missing that. Thus it would definitely be better if you arrived the day before. On the other hand, if you’re willing to take a chance that your flight will be delayed (we just had the experience of a 10 hour delay), then you can arrive in Honolulu on Saturday. It takes about 20 minutes via cab from the airport to the dock.


  9. I meet friends ever February just to see the humpbacks for at least 15 years.
    We go out with Captain Steve’s . There are at least 5 sometimes more of us. WE
    are there just fir the whales.
    I have never seen killer whales but one year we saw a baby that had it’s tale bitten.
    Can’t wait for FEBRUAUY, I stay at least 16 days,
    Love those whales!!!

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top