BEST Time for Whale Watching in Hawaii: Complete Guide

Are you looking to get a glimpse of some magnificent Humpback whales off the coast of Hawaii? With its temperate climate, warm waters, and nutrient-rich environment, whale season in Hawaii is one of the best times to see these gentle giants. From sperm and fast killer whales to orcas and melon-headed whales, there are different species of whales to observe and appreciate in the waters surrounding the Hawaii Islands. So, when is the best time for whale watching in Hawaii? Read on to explore!

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Located in the central Pacific along the migratory path of humpback whales, Hawaii is a popular destination for whale enthusiasts. Every year during winters, more than 10,000 North Pacific Humpback Whales migrate from the cold waters of Alaska to the warm waters of Hawaii for breeding and calving.   

During winters, the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are swarming with Humpback whale pods. With deep sea shelves only within a few miles of coasts, you can easily find whales in their natural habitat. During whale season in Hawaii, there is plenty to see, from tail slapping to breaching to playing games and singing.

The lovely weather, stunning beaches, and unparalleled landscape of the Hawaiian Islands attract tourists of all ages worldwide.

If you dream of being surrounded by large humpback whales and fun-loving dolphins, whale-watching tours in Hawaii are the perfect activity, but make sure you visit Hawaii at the right time.

So read on to learn when is the best time for whale watching in Hawaii, which island is ideal for whale watching, and the best whale watching opportunities and tours on each island.

Let’s get started!

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Why is whale watching a must-do bucket list item? 

Whale watching in Hawaii is something else. The privilege of watching humpback whales up close on the Hawaiian islands is a moment you will cherish for the rest of your life.   

Whale watching is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that combines breathtaking natural beauty, wildlife encounters, and a deep connection with water. If you’re looking for an unforgettable whale-watching adventure, Hawaii is a must-visit destination offering incredible opportunities.

Hawaii offers diverse coastal sceneries, from rugged cliffs to pristine sandy beaches. The humpback whale migration season aligns with the winter months, making it the best time for whale watching in Hawaii. 

You cannot actually swim with whales in Hawaii waters, as whales are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to approach whales within 100 yards. However, there are many exciting whale watching tours that will get you up close and personal with these incredible creatures!

So what is the best way to begin your whale-watching excursion? Whether you join a boat tour to get a close-up glimpse of these gentle mammoths or settle in to watch the playful actions from the coast, Hawaii offers the best ways to experience whale-watching. 

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Why is Hawaii an amazing place to see whales? 

Hawaii is a popular whale-watching spot, notably due to two-thirds of North America’s Humpback Whale population. Mother whales feeding their calves come first, followed by youngsters and newly weaned yearlings, around mid to late November. 

The North Pacific Humpback Whale is the most abundant species in Hawaii. They are known for their magnificent leaps, amazing acrobatics, and lovely songs. You’ll also see Blue Whales, Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, Pilot whales, Bryde’s whales, and False killer whales in Hawaii’s waters. 

Each Hawaiian island offers unique features and whale-watching opportunities:

Maui is well-known for its protected and shallow waters, which create a more tranquil setting for mother-calf interactions. Maui is the best land-based whale-watching destination in Hawaii. If you are looking to explore by kayak or small boat, Oahu’s Waikiki beachfront offers stunning views and calmer waters.

The Kona coast of the Big Island is popular for its deep-sea tours, allowing visitors to see various marine mammals and humpback whales. With its rugged and untouched beauty, Kauai offers a more private and intimate whale-watching experience.

The Sanctuary Ocean Count releases the whale count data for Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island. The Pacific Whale Foundation provides the whale count statistics for Maui.

Each of these Hawaii islands offers whale-watching tour operators and qualified professionals offering valuable insight into humpback whale behavior, biology, and conservation initiatives. You can learn more about whale watching on each Hawaiian Island in the section below!

All of these features make Hawaii a perfect place for whale watching. So, if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, plan your Hawaii vacation during whale season and get ready to be amazed.

When is the Best Time for Whale Watching in Hawaii?

The winter months from December to Aprilnare the best time for whale watching in Hawaii. 

During this time, the tropical waters around the Hawaiian Islands become a haven for these amazing creatures attracting a large population of humpback whales. They exhibit a range of activities, including breaching, tail slapping, and singing, providing a fascinating display for whale watchers.

January and February are frequently considered peak months for whale watching because the population of whales in the area reaches its highest points. However, you can experience whale watching in Hawaii throughout the winter.

During the summer months, you’ll find whales around their feeding areas in the Polar Regions of the Pacific Ocean, where plankton, krill, and small fish exist in abundance.

To get the most out of your whale-watching excursion, make sure you are on vacation at the same time as the Humpbacks.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Which islands of Hawaii have the best whale-watching opportunities? 

The Hawaiian Islands are a humpback whale national marine sanctuary, providing a haven for these incredible creatures to breed and give birth. There are numerous free sites to see these gorgeous creatures from land, particularly on Maui, Big Island, Kauai, and Oahu.

Let’s discuss them in detail!

Whale-watching on Maui

Plan your tour to Maui to spot humpback whales from the island shoreline. February is the best month to explore the island. The beautiful west Maui coast allows visitors to witness the magic of the whales from their coastal resorts or vacation rentals. 

Maui is a top land-based whale-watching destination in the United States. Most humpback whales that migrate to Hawaii indulge in the warm, calm, and hospitable Maui waters. 

The Maui Nui Basin, where more than half of all humpback whales migrate during the winter season for breeding, is the primary spot on Maui to go whale watching. Located between Lanai, Molokai, and Maui, the Auau Channel is a famous gathering spot for humpback whales during their annual migration.

Other good places to view whales on this best island are:

  • Pu’u Ola’i Beach
  • Makena Beach
  •  McGregor Point Lookout 
  •  Wailea Oceanfront Path
  • Lahaina Pali Trailhead 
  • Ka’anapali Beach Walking Path

Bring binoculars to observe the whales from a distance, or take a boat excursion to see the whales up close.

Maui Whale Watching Tours 

From breathtaking views to experienced guides, these Maui whale-watching tours will make sure that you get the most out of your whale-watching adventure. Get ready to be amazed by the majestic creatures in all its glory!

Whale Watching Cruise From Lahaina Harbor

This whale-watching tour on Maui departs from Lahaina Harbor and provides a fantastic opportunity in the calm waters of Maui. The tour operates from December to May, the best time for whale watching in Hawaii.

A knowledgeable captain and crew are included in the two-hour cruise to guarantee the safety of everyone on board.

Whale sightings are guaranteed, or whale watchers get a free second trip. Visitors can capture memorable photos of Maui’s stunning coastlines and panoramic views throughout the excursion.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Ali’i VIP Maui Whale Watching Tour

The Ali’i whale-watching tour is absolutely one of the best ways to see whales on Maui. It begins at Lahaina. The tour lasts an hour and 45 minutes and can accommodate only 12 passengers.

Visitors can use their hydroponic audio system to hear the whales singing. You’ll get a chance to get up close and personal with humpback whales and interact with other marine life. The tour offers the best onboard amenities and comfort. Expert marine naturalists are always available to share pertinent information.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Kayaking and Whale Watching Private Tour

If you’re looking for a more intimate experience, this three-hour private trip is perfect. This private kayaking and whale-watching cruise departs from Kihei’s 5083 Makena Road between 7 and 10 in the morning and heads out into the deep waters where you can see the whales.

This private whale-watching excursion, which operates from December to May, provides a tranquil location to view the whales.

You get so near to the whales in the kayaks because they are light, quick, and much easier to maneuver. You can even hear the whales singing and breathing. It offers full refunds if there is no whale sighting or the tour is canceled.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Whale Watching on Oahu

Between December and May, the mammoth humpback whale species flock to the waters of Oahu to feed and frolic. During the winter, you can see migratory Humpback whales splashing near the shoreline!

On Oahu’s North Shore, Turtle Bay, Sharks Cove, the Halona Blowhole, and Lanai Lookout are usually great places to see adult humpback whales. Honolulu and Waikiki are also the best spots for whale watching on the South shore of Oahu. Other fantastic locations to observe whales on Oahu include Makapu’u Lighthouse, Hanauma Bay, and Diamond Head.

The best way to see whales on Oahu is to book a whale-watching boat cruise. Some of these include snorkeling tours. Snorkeling tours are the best opportunity to see the amazing creatures living in the Oahu waters.

Oahu Whale Watching Tours

On Oahu, whale tours are an enjoyable opportunity to see whales from picturesque locations like Hanauma Bay and the Makapuu Lighthouse. The trips depart from various ports, offering you numerous options for your thrilling adventure.

Oahu Whale Watching Excursion

This whale-watching excursion departs from Ko Olina or Waikiki. It is a fantastic way to get up close to these magnificent whales.

During their peak season, you can see large flocks of humpback whales approaching larger boats as they pass through the coastal areas in the winter. You can choose between a catamaran or a monohull for this two-hour tour.

This whale-watching tour in Oahu is available from December 15 to April 15, as it is the best time for whale-watching in Hawaii. A whale sighting is guaranteed! But if you miss a sighting, you will get another trip for free.  

Several tour times are available in the morning (8:00 am) and afternoon (3:00 pm), making this excursion the best choice. 

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Whale Watch Cruise Aboard the Majestic

This whale watch cruise is perfect for those who want to learn more about whales rather than just observe them. The onboard naturalist will provide educational commentary about the Hawaiian coastline and its marine life.

Sit comfortably by the large viewing windows in the air-conditioned cabin as you ride around Oahu’s coastline and take in unimpeded views of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach. The outdoor deck is great for watching the whales breaching and spouting on the surface of the water.

This whale-watching cruise lasts two hours. You’ll get extra 30 minutes to enjoy your meal and relax. Lastly, the crew promises you will see a whale on this cruise. If not, they provide a free cruise.

Bring your camera on this unforgettable whale viewing cruise to capture the beautiful landscape and smiles!

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Whale Watching and Late Breakfast Cruise in Honolulu

You will enjoy a pleasant, leisurely morning excursion on this Oahu whale-watching tour aboard Prince Kuhio while looking these majestic creatures and indulging in a delicious breakfast. You can get a cup of Kona coffee, French toast, or a breakfast bowl with short ribs. 

This whale-viewing cruise is ideal for anyone who gets up early or is still getting used to the time. This 2-hour excursion offers a glimpse of L’hai and Diamond Head Crater, the world heritage site.

On this cruise, you’ll see Hawaiian sea turtles, spinner dolphins, and whales, making it an unforgettable experience. And breakfast is included too!

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Whale Watching on Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii is home to a wide variety of landscapes and a plethora of aquatic creatures, including humpback whales. The Kohala Coast offers fantastic whale-watching opportunities, especially in the waters off Kona and Waikoloa. 

Are you wondering when is the best time for whale watching in Hawaii? The best time for whale watching on Big Island starts in late November, and ends in April. January and February are peak months. The whales are quite active during the day, although reports indicate that those who go whale watching before 8:00 am see more whales than those who go around sunset.

Other best places for whale watching on the Big Island include:

  • Pololu Valley
  • Kapa’a Beach Park
  • Holoholokai Beach Park
  • Lapakahi Historical State Park
  • Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site

The strategic location of the Big Island along the whale migratory route, combined with its deep ocean waters, makes it a perfect habitat for humpback whales. 

Wanting to explore some truly unique beaches on Big Island? Check out its incredible black beaches!

Hawaii black sand beachesThe BEST Hawaii Black Sand Beaches You MUST See!

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Big Island Whale Watching Tours

Whale-watching excursions on the Big Island are a great way to round out any Hawaiian vacation. These tours offer incredible experiences with the large concentration of whales gathering in the area.

Zodiac Raft Whale Watching Adventure

Get on a fast raft on this Zodiac Raft Whale Watching Adventure to see some of the humpback whales! The tour allows visitors to follow whales in a high-speed 24-foot Zodiac raft while also exploring the Big Island. Your captain will tell you everything from Hawaiian culture and history to the island’s distinctive geology while watching for whale signs and navigating the raft through sea caves and lava tubes. You may even see some dolphins, turtles, manta rays, and other amazing marine life. If you’re looking for a quick and informative adventure, this raft tour is the best.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Whale Watch Excursion from the Big Island

Get up close and personal with humpback whales on this guided Big Island whale-watching tour

A professional naturalist tour guide will provide informative commentary about the whales’ behavior as they breach, dive, tail slap, and play, helping you better appreciate these wonderful creatures. Best of all, you can record the whales’ impressive fluking and breaching and hear the whale’s songs with a hydrophone. 

 This tour lasts about 2 and a half hours and takes place in the afternoon. During your trip to Hawaii, take a lovely relaxing ride in the water after a fantastic lunch!  

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Wake Up with the Whales Cruise

This whale cruise includes one of the early morning whale-watching tours from North Kona, Hawaii. Around 8:00 am, you will set off on a pleasant adventure to see some stunning Hawaiian whales.

This tour allows you to see these magnificent creatures in their native habitat safely. It departs from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Waters. 

Snacks and beverages, including beers, wine, and others, are complementary. You can even get a free second tour if you don’t see a whale!

Since the whale-watching tour lasts only an hour and a half, you can move on to other exciting Kona activities shortly afterward. 

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Whale Watching in Kauai

Kauai boasts some of the most beautiful whale-watching destinations, including Poipu Beach and the Kilauea Lighthouse. Located on Kauai’s North Shore, the Kalalau Trail is another popular spot. The Kapaa Overlook, adjacent to Kealia Beach, attracts many ardent whale watchers. Other locations include Makahuena Point and the Kilauea Lighthouse.

The best time for whale watching in Kauai, Hawaii, is from December to April. The warm Hawaiian waters offer them breeding grounds and birthing locations. Spot these adorable creatures when they playfully surface, slap their tails, or blow air through their spouts.

A boat tour is the best way to see whales on Kauai. Most of Kauai’s whale-watching tours and cruises leave from Poipu and Na Pali Coast. These whale tours offer the best whale-watching opportunities. 

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Kauai Whale Watching Tours 

If you are looking for an elegant whale-watching experience, reserve the following whale-watching tours along Kauai’s coast.

Na Pali Coast Kauai Snorkel and Sail

If you’re looking to go snorkeling and whale watching in Kauai, Na Pali Coast Kauai Snorkel and Sail is perfect. You’ll have the chance to see some of Hawaii’s most magnificent creatures, explore its crystal-clear seas, and take in the marine life there.

Passing at Polihale Beach, the tour reaches the Napali Coast Hawaii State Wilderness Area, where you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the 4,000-foot cliffs, several waterfalls, immaculate beaches, sea arches, and sea caves.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Ultimate Whale and Dolphin Zodiac Boat Adventure

The exciting and unique Kauai’s Ultimate Whale & Dolphin Zodiac Boat Adventure provides a chance to witness humpback whales on their annual trip from Alaska to Hawaii.

In quest of these spectacular creatures, you will travel up to 30 miles down Kauai’s southern shore aboard a Zodiac boat. This tour accommodates only 14 individuals, making it a more intimate experience. 

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Ni’ihau and Na Pali Coast Snorkel Tour

Are you looking for whale-viewing snorkel tours? Check out this Snorkel Boat Tour offered by Holo Holo Charters. 

This seven-hour Pacific Ocean excursion includes the famous Napali Coast boat tour on Kauai with a visit to the nearby Lehua Crater Hawaii State Wildlife Sanctuary and the “Forbidden Island” of Niihau. 

The tour offers an opportunity to see humpback whales (December–April), sea caves, arches, sea cliffs, waterfalls, beaches, emerald valleys, and other marine life like spinner dolphins, green sea turtles, and Hawaiian monk seals on the Napali Coast. 

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Best Places to Stay in Hawaii

After whale-watching adventures and sunset outrigger canoe excursions, hotels and resorts in Hawaii also play a crucial role in creating memorable experiences. Here are some of the best places to stay in Hawaii islands.

Best Places to Stay in Maui

The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali 

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Located on the beautiful Ka’anapali beach, the Westin Resort & Spa offers stunning ocean views, direct beach access, luxurious amenities, and easy access to whale watching and snorkeling tours. It also features a full-service spa, a fitness center, multiple pools, hot tubs, and dining options. It is located close to many popular attractions like Whalers Village and Kaanapali Golf Courses.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

Located on the southern end of Kaanapali Beach in west Maui, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa is a premier accommodation. The resort features an outdoor water park, an infinity pool, a full-service spa, and multiple dining options. You can enjoy your own little oasis with exotic tropical flowers and coconut trees while being only a few feet from the water. Moreover, it is a popular departure point for whale-watching tours during the humpback whale annual migration season. 

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Four Season Resort Maui at Wailea

Located on the beautiful Wailea Beach in south Maui, this luxurious Hawaii resort offers elegant accommodations, stunning ocean views, and world-class amenities. The resort features spacious rooms, multiple pools, hot tubs, lounges, a spa, and exceptional dining options. It offers a tranquil and upscale setting to relax and unwind after a day of whale watching.  

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Best Places to Stay in Oahu

Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Located on the Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Oahu, Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort offers a vibrant and enjoyable stay. It offers a prime beachfront location, and stylish and spacious rooms with contemporary Hawaiian décor, offering a relaxing retreat after a day of whale-watching adventure. You can soak up the sun at the beach or relax by the pool while enjoying panoramic ocean views.

Turtle Bay Resort

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Named after an entirely different animal, Turtle Bay Resort is located in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. On three occasions during the migration season—January 26, February 23, and March 30—the hotel allows visitors to participate in the preservation and conservation efforts by letting them see and document humpback whale activities. The resort offers visitors a remarkable and unforgettable experience with its breathtaking natural beauty, plentiful amenities, and first-rate service.


Located near Waikiki Beach and Moana Surfrider, Halekulani offers a serene and sophisticated ambiance. The hotel features spacious rooms with ocean views, a poolside bar, an infinity pool, a luxurious spa, and award-winning dining options. You can relax by the beautiful oceanfront pool, enjoy easy access to the pristine white sands of Waikiki Beach, or indulge in water activities like snorkeling or paddle boarding.  

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Best Places to Stay in Big Island

Royal Kona Resort

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Situated along the oceanfront, the Royal Kona Resort offers stunning views of the Pacific and provides a vantage point for spotting humpback whales during winter. The resort offers a wide range of amenities and activities to enhance your stay. You can relax by the oceanfront pool, enjoy a spa treatment, or participate in cultural activities like the resort’s weekly luau.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Four Season Resort Hualalai

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Located on the Kon-Kohala Coast, Four Season Resort Hualalai is the most luxurious resort on the Big Island, Hawaii. This stunning resort offers refined elegance, spectacular grounds, unparalleled service, marine biologists on staff, and breathtaking natural beauty. It features spacious rooms, multiple pools, exquisite dining options, a world-class spa, and a championship golf course.     

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Fairmont Orchid

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Located on the Kohala Coast, this upscale resort offers an unforgettable experience with its luxurious amenities, beachfront location, and impeccable services. Fairmont Orchid provides direct access to a private black sand beach, beautiful waterfalls, and a spacious lanai to relax and soak in the natural beauty of the Big Island. Indulge in relaxing spa treatments, play golf on the championship course, or explore the vibrant underwater creatures through snorkeling or scuba diving.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Best Places to Stay in Kauai

Hanalei Colony Resort

Hanalei Colony Resort is a beautiful beachside accommodation on Kauai’s gorgeous Hanalei Bay. It provides a unique and serene getaway for those seeking a relaxing break. The resort also has direct access to Hanalei Bay’s beautiful waters, where you can swim, snorkel, or simply relax in the sun.

 Its location in the charming town of Hanalei offers easy access to numerous outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and exploring the nearby Na Pali Coast.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Located in Poipu, Kauai, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa offers a perfect base for your whale-watching adventure. The resort features oceanfront accommodations, elegantly designed guest rooms, suites, a full-service spa, pools, and dining options. One of the highlights of staying at this resort is convenient access to whale-watching tours. The nearby harbors offer departure points for exciting tours to witness humpback whales in their natural habitat. 

Koa Kea Resort on Poipu Beach

Located in Poipu, this boutique resort offers a relaxing and intimate setting for guests seeking a tranquil escape. The resort is located close to whale-watching spots. It offers a range of amenities to enhance your stay. You can relax by the serene oceanfront pool, indulge in rejuvenating treatments at the on-site spa, or participate in beach yoga, snorkeling, or paddleboarding activities.

best time for whale watching in hawaii

Conclusion About Whale Watching in Hawaii

Whale-watching in Hawaii is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will never forget. The best time for whale watching in Hawaii is winter (December to April). If you’re visiting Hawaii during these months, add whale watching to your Hawaii bucket list. 

Whether you want to see humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, or even rare orcas, Hawaii’s waters will surely offer some amazing sights!

With so many whale-watching tours available, Hawaii offers plenty of opportunities to go out and explore underwater creatures. So what are you waiting for? Grab your binoculars, go to the docks, and get ready for an incredible whale-watching experience!

BEST Whale Watching Tours in Hawaii:

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BEST Time for Whale Watching in Hawaii: Complete Guide

I’m Jenn, a photographer, travel writer, and content creator based out of the beautiful Canadian Rockies. I’m glad you’re here – now let’s explore!

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