Whale Watching is a Great Big Island Activity
December to April is an exciting time for the Big Island of Hawai’i because it marks whale watching season. The humpback whales leave the icy waters of Alaska and migrate 6000 miles to Hawaii every year to give birth and care for their calves. Hawaii has been designated as the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in an effort to protect the whales and their habitat. There are several ways to see these beautiful creatures and for many, it’s the best part of their visit.
Go to the beach!
All along the beaches of the Kohala coast, you can see the humpback whales breach the surface of the water from the comfort of your beach chair. Locals say the whales like the attention of a cheering crowd, and they can put on quite a show! A humpback whale can breach up to 40% of its enormous body out of the water. Humpback whales travel in small groups, so if you see one – look for others close by! If you’re staying at a coastal property, you will see the whales from your oceanfront lanai as well. In either case, it doesn’t hurt to have a pair of binoculars with you.
The popular whale watching boat tours on the Big Island advertise that you are guaranteed to see whales. You can charter a private boat with a small group or join one of the larger tours. Out of respect and safety, all boats must remain at least 90 meters from the whales, but it feels much closer because of how massive they are.
Kayak or Canoe
For the more adventurous ocean lovers, you can get a good look at the whales from a kayak or canoe. There are common spots to launch a kayak or canoe where the water is calmer, such as Puako Bay or Anaehoomalu Bay. From this vantage point, you can see pods of humpback whales that include mothers with calves. The whales are not intimidated by the kayaks, but be sure to maintain a safe distance because when they breach and land in the ocean, they make a huge splash.
If it’s your first time on the island, it is a surreal experience to see these amazing animals in their natural habitat!