Humpback whales have returned and free whale watching in Hawaii is really possible once again. The first sighting of the season took place early, in October, in the waters between Maui and Molokini. Starting this month, the annual data collection begins which has been in place since the 1980s. That monitors the animals’ annual migration which begins in Alaska, and how they are being impacted by shifting prey and climate change, among other things.
Each fall, up to 12,000 humpbacks 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 unbelievable 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. 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, they shouldn’t be all that hard to spot on your own even if you don’t capture the perfect photo.
Our personal best Big Island whale watching scores 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 what was once the hub of Hawaii whaling that 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. You’ll also find an abundance of boat tours to choose from.
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 south and west facing shores.
Recent Decline in Sightings
Whale experts are continuing to check for a drop in sightings of humpbacks, which over the past 5 years have declined by at least 50%. This doesn’t necessarily signify a drop in migration or other issues, but the decline is concerning enough for scientists to look further. With a plethora of variables, it isn’t clear if the whales are choosing 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?
Please share your best Hawaii whale-spotting experiences.