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We Have a Connection with Whales
They come to Hawaii every winter, seeking refuge from sub-freezing temperatures. They bask in the warm, hospitable waters of every island, to the delight of appreciative Island residents. They help boost the local economy. And then they return home.
No, we’re not referring to tourists. Each year, humpback whales migrate to Hawaiian waters to breed, give birth and nurse their young. And Island residents and visitors alike welcome these gentle leviathans with open arms.
Scientists estimate that about two-thirds of the entire humpback whale population in the North Pacific visit the Islands each winter. At birth, whale calves can weigh up to 3,000 pounds and measure between 10 and 15 feet in length. An adult humpback can grow to more than 40 feet in length and weigh more than 40 tons.
Hawaiian humpback whales migrate from Alaskan waters where they spend the summer months feeding on krill and small fish. At the end of summer they make the long journey to the Hawaiian Islands where the whale’s mate and give birth. Seeing these gentle giants of the sea is an exhilarating experience and the highlight of any Hawaii vacation.
Hawaii’s whale watching season takes place from late November to mid-April. There are numerous whale watching excursions throughout the state, many of which guarantee sightings and provide expert narration to heighten the experience. Many of these operators have microphones that they drop in the water, letting you hear the whales in the area. (Whale factoid: Although both sexes produce a wide variety of sounds, only the male actually “sings.”)
Whale watching in Hawaii is an extremely popular activity. “People want to go out and see nature, and the whale is without a doubt the symbol of the marine life experience,” explained one veteran whale researcher. “Seeing a whale, even at a distance, is just so gratifying to people. We have a connection with whales. People look at whales as very intelligent creatures that share the planet with us.” Learn more
Best Places to See Whales
Whales may be viewed from all the Hawaiian islands, but most of the whales congregate in the waters off Maui, particularly along the south and western shores (between Wailea, Kihei, Lahaina and Ka’anapali).
The Big Island’s Kona Coast, with deep waters close to its lee shores, is also fertile territory for whale sightings.
On Kauai the Kilauea Lighthouse on the North Shore offers a good vantage point.