Whale Watching

WhalesEach year Kohola, the Hawaiian Humpback whales, swim from Alaskan feeding grounds to the warm waters of Hawaii. They come to Hawaii every winter, seeking refuge from sub-freezing temperatures up north. They bask in the warm, hospitable waters of every island, to the delight of appreciative Island residents. From December to early May the humpback whales make it down to Hawaii traveling an incredible 3,000 miles of ocean in less than two-months time, one of the longest migration distances of any animal species. These gentle giants migrate from the gulf of Alaska to Hawaii for breeding and birthing in the islands’ warm and shallow waters. Their annual migration delights both visitors and residents alike during the peak of their numbers between January and early April. The main reason for their trip to the warm Hawaiian waters is to give birth to new calves. Helped by its mother, a newborn Humpback instinctively swims to the surface within 10 seconds for its first breath. Within 30 minutes of birth the whale is able to swim, frequently riding in its mother’s slip-stream.

Spectacular event

Hawaii Humpback whales are mammals belonging to the order Cetacea, which includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises. The common name “Humpback” refers to the high arch of their backs when the whales dive. A Humpback whales' pectoral fins are up to 15 feet in length with a bone structure similar to that of the human hand and arm. Weighing up to 45 tons, these whales can be graceful acrobats. Seeing a humpback whale “breach” the ocean by propelling its 45-foot long body out of the sea is a spectacular event.

whaleTheir mysterious whale song is yet another intriguing trait of male humpback whales. These complex songs can be heard underwater from up to twelve miles away. Whales employ an internal system of air sinuses and bones to detect sound because they lack external ears.

Called “kohola” by Hawaiians, humpback whales are treated with great respect. In Hawaiian mythology the whale is a manifestation of Kanaloa, the god of the sea. Some Native Hawaiians believe that the kohola is an aumakua, or family guardian, so they have high regard for these special visitors. Because humpback calves are actually born in Hawaiian waters, the whales are considered kamaaina, or native born.

Whale Watching Tours

Whale Watching with Cpt DanPut your whale watching experience in the hands of a researcher who has studied whales his whole life: Dan McSweeney. He personally conducts the only whale watching company on Hawaii'i island that actively supports and protects Hawaii's whales. Dan's life-long commitment to whale research, education and conservation has furthered the understanding of these magnificent creatures. This important work focuses not only on migratory humpback whales, but also on all of the many other species of whales who make Hawai'i their home year 'round. For whale tour bookings visit our online concierge service.

Breathing mammals

All cetaceans, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, are descendants of land-dwelling mammals. The whale is related to the Indohyus, an extinct semi-aquatic deer-like ungulate, from which they split around 54 million years ago. Like all mammals, whales breathe air, are warm-blooded, nurse their young with milk from mammary glands, and have body hair. The female usually delivers a single calf, which is birthed tail-first to minimize the risk of drowning. Whale cows nurse by actively squirting milk into the mouths of their young. This milk is so rich in fat that it has the consistency of toothpaste. Whale lifespan is not well documented, but believed to be around 80 years.

Where to see them

There are some great whale watching tours out of the Kona Harbor. However, during the right time of the year you can see them right of the coast as well!