Skip to content
Exploring: Home » Insiders Guide » Ask the Big Kahuna » When and where can you see whales in Hawaii?

When and where can you see whales in Hawaii?

Ask the Big Kahuna

“Answering the most common visitor questions”


I’ve heard that you can see whales in Hawai’i. But what can you really see whales doing? And where are the best places to see them and when?

Ishmael, ME


Aloha MD,
Whale watching is a very popular and exciting activity here in the Hawaiian islands.

The types of whales usually seen here are Humpback whales. The whales begin their southern migration from Alaska to Hawai’i in December every year to give birth to their calves in the warmer waters, as well as to mate. Whales stay through about April, but since whales don’t have calendars (or BlackBerries), these times can vary somewhat.

You can spot whales from shore at several places around the islands. Like us, whales are mammals and they need to breathe oxygen. When whales surface to breathe, you usually just see a spray of water blast up into the air. Sometimes whales lift their tails or flukes out of the water or slap their flippers on the surface. Whales also sometimes just pop their heads out of the water, an event called an “eye spy.” On occasion, if you are really lucky, a whale will “breach,” that is, jump clear out of the water and land on its side.

Maui is known to have the largest transient whale population during Humpback whale season. Also, you will find good viewing along the east to north shores of Kaua’i. There are many on-the-water whale watching tours available. If you spot a whale while out on a boat, keep in mind that it’s illegal to approach a whale closer than 500 feet. Often whale watching boat tours cut their engines and float in whale territory and the whales will come right up to the boat to investigate. It is OK if the whales approach you, just do not touch or feed the whales because humans can pass harmful germs to them.

 Whale/Dolphin Watching Providers: Big Island Whale/Dolphin Watching Providers | Kauai Whale/Dolphin Watching Providers | Maui Whale/Dolphin Watching Providers | Oahu Whale/Dolphin Watching Providers

Mahalo for your question,

Big Kahuna