Whale Watching in Hawaii:
What You Need to Know

Hawaii is a popular destination for whale enthusiasts due to the large number of Humpback whales that migrate there every year. The main reasons for these migrations are food, breeding, and giving birth. Humpback whales favor the warmer waters around Hawaii’s coast, which feature abundant food sources and fewer predators than their icy polar counterparts. Fewer predators mean a safer environment for newly birthed calves, and the warmer waters ensure they won’t freeze before accumulating the necessary blubber that keeps them warm.

What is the Best Month for Whale Watching In Hawaii?

The best month for whale watching ranges from December to April. Within that time, the peak months are January and February.

Which Hawaiian island is the Best for Whale Watching?

Maui is considered the best Hawaiian island for whale watching due to the shallow Auau Channel that runs alongside it. This shallow channel brings the whales closer to the surface and increases your chances of spotting them breaching or hunting for krill or small fish.

Are You More Likely to See Whales in the Morning or Afternoon?

Early morning is the best time for whale watching; however, whales are active throughout the day, so you’re still likely to see them even in the afternoon. Many cruises also have a guaranteed whale sighting policy, which means you can book again for free in case you weren’t able to see any on the original date you booked. We recommend booking whale watch cruises that sail on the first few days of your trip so you can rebook when necessary.

Is it Better to DIY or Book a Whale Watching Tour?

Although it may be tempting to set sail on your own for a whale watching excursion, it’s much safer and more exciting to utilize the services of a whale watching tour. The staff are familiar with the waters around each island and know the spots the whales visit most. Tours are also more convenient and usually have an expert tour guide that gives fun and fascinating facts about whales and how they interact in the area. You can also listen to the hauntingly beautiful whale songs using underwater hydrophones and eat free snacks while onboard. When you take a whale watching tour, the captain also knows how to avoid any dangerous areas, which is why sticking with the professionals is always your best bet!

Whale Watching Tips

Here are a few tips you can use for the best experience on your whale watching adventure.

  • Wear layers to protect yourself from the wind and sun.

  • Wear a seasickness band to help prevent motion sickness and make your time on the water more enjoyable.

  • Try to book whale watching cruises that sail on the earliest dates of your trip. If the whale watching cruise has a guaranteed whale sightseeing policy, you can book again for free in case you don’t spot a whale on your first try.

  • Pack eco-friendly sunscreen. Hawaii prohibits the use of coral-harming products, so make sure the one you choose is environment-friendly. In case you forget to pack one before you go, you’ll find a lot of Hawaii-made reef-safe sunscreen in local shops.

  • Don’t forget your camera.

Oahu Whale Watching Tours

Whale watching tours on Oahu are a fun way to spot whales from beautiful areas like the scenic Makapuu Lighthouse and Hanauma Bay. There are various ports where the tours depart from, giving you many choices for your exciting adventure.

Go on Waikiki’s best whale watching cruise aboard the Star of Honolulu, Hawaii’s largest vessel! The boat features four observation decks to enjoy great views of humpback whales as you set out on a smooth sailing winter Waikiki whale watch.

See Humpback Whales in Hawaii aboard the Honu Lani Catamaran and cruise with Hawaii Nautical on a top rated Honolulu Whale Watching Sail. Two daily departures from Kewalo Harbor available from Dec – April with whales sightings guaranteed.

Join Majestic on a 2.5-hour Honolulu Whale Watch tour. The vessel features 3 observations decks offering wonderful whale sighting opportunities and panoramic views of Diamond Head & Waikiki Beach. Whale Watch Guarantee or come back again for free!

Maui Whale Watching Tours

Lahaina Harbor is one of the most popular areas for whale watching tours on Maui, with most traveling to the Maui Nui Basin, where more than half of the humpback whale population migrates for breeding.

Take a catamaran boat cruise from Maalaea Harbor to go whale watching with experts! Certified Marine Naturalists take you on an informative and adventurous whale watching tours, one of Maui’s top-rated ecotourism experiences!

Embark on Maui’s most popular Whale Watching Cruise with guaranteed whale sightings. Join Hawaii Ocean Project and get front row seats to witness the majestic humpback whales. All tours are fully narrated by experienced marine life naturalists.

Cruise from Lahaina Harbor with one of Maui’s top rated eco-tour companies, The Pacific Whale Foundation! Featuring high-tech power catamarans, multiple departure times and a Whale Sighting Guarantee for the best whale watching value in Maui!

Big Island Whale Watching Tours

Whale watching tours on the Big Island are an excellent addition to any Hawaiian vacation. Many tours depart from Kona and experience astounding interactions from the high concentration of humpback whales that congregate in the area.

Set out on a Big Island whale watching cruise to explore the waters of the Hawaii Humpback Whale Sanctuary, and see amazing views of Hawaii’s winter visitors, the humpback whales! Watch from the comfort of a power boat on a morning or afternoon tour.

Hop on board Ocean Encounters to search for majestic Humpback Whales during their winter migration. Enjoy an exciting 2.5-hour Kona whale watching tour with whale sighting guarantee! Includes beverages and snacks.

Come and join Hawaii Nautical’s Big Island whale watching tour! Their Whale Watch Guarantee means if you don’t see whales, you can sail again for free. The on-board naturalist will make sure you find whales and enjoy your whale watching cruise!