The warm and shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for kohola, or humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. They race more than 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii.
The whale watching season is usually under way by mid-December and lasts until April or May, with the ideal months for watching typically being February and March. While whale watching is ideal on Maui, Molokai, and Lanai islands, humpback whales can be seen on Oahu from the shoreline of Waikiki, Makapuu Lighthouse, and along the seaside overlooks near Diamond Head.
Recently, my social media manager was able to encounter a mother whale and her calf off of the shores of Diamond Head during sunset, as shown in the photo above and in this video here. The crew was sailing, when they were startled by the sound of a whale spouting water. To their happy surprise, the mother whale and her calf were peacefully swimming about 100 feet from their boat. The captain observed their behavior to ensure no signs of distress or defensiveness. When no such behavior was observed, it was determined safe for the crew to remain where it was. The whales continued on their way, spouting water about two more times before swimming farther away. The observation was a fleeting, but beautiful and memorable moment. Witnessing these majestic creatures takes a lot of patience and respect, as well.
If you can't spot them from the shore, boat tours would be your best shot at getting closer to them. Luckily, there are many boat operators on Oahu that host whale watching tours. A few choices are listed below:
Dolphin Excursions Hawaii, 85-491 Farrington Highway, Waianae, HI 96792
Atlantis Adventures, Pier 6 Aloha Tower Marketplace, Honolulu, HI, 96813
Wild Side Specialty Tours, 87-1002 Hakimo Place Unit C, Waianae Small Boat Harbor, Waianae, HI 96792
Whale-watching is truly an unforgettable experience that we highly recommend anyone in Hawaii do during the season!