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Why Do Whales Come to Hawaii?

While it’s true that we enjoy a virtual endless summer here in Honolulu, we do have beautifully subtle changes between seasons.

Every year, we know that fall and winter have arrived when our gigantic visitors from the north reach our waters. The humpback winters in Hawaii and I’m always so excited to see my old friends again every winter.

The whales bring their babies with them so we get to see the families expanding each year. They normally arrive sometime in November. We know they’re coming, so they don’t give us an exact date.

The humpback whale is a protected species, so when I see a whale, I know the crew will slow down, so as to give the whales enough space, and they need a lot of room. But because the whales know they are safe in Hawaii, they will often come very close to me much to the delight of everyone on my decks. Some estimates place the number of whales in the Hawaiian waters at about 10,000 each winter. That’s a lot of whales!

What do Humpback Whales Do on Their Hawaiian Vacation?

The humpback whales know Hawaii is a relaxing and safe place. Like all of Waikiki’s visitors, they love the warm winter waters. Hawaii is the only state that the whales think is perfect for the mating, calving and nursing. The babies learn all kinds of things here and they are actually easier to spot because they surface more often, every 3-5 minutes, because they can’t hold their breath as long.

The whales travel in groups and leisurely glide through our waters, even island hopping as they see fit. Adult whales surface to breath every 10-15 minutes. Sometimes when they come to the surface, they also stick their heads out of the water (called “piloting”). Some believe they are doing this to see what’s happening above the surface. I think they do it because they like to feel the warm Hawaiian trade winds and sun on their faces; isn’t that what everyone loves about Hawaii vacations?

I’ve seen whales breach too. That’s an amazing sight, they launch themselves right out of the water and land with a huge splash. I’m not normally close enough to them to get wet when they do this, but that’s actually good because they create quite a disturbance when they do that! Imagine 25 to 40 tons of whale hitting the top of the water! Ka-ploosh!

Want To See Whales in Honolulu?

There are many ways to see whales in Hawaii. On Oahu, the Makapu’u hike offers views of the channel between Oahu and Maui, whales love this channel, so they often swim through it on their way to and from Waikiki.

Naturally, I’m partial to seeing them in their natural environment a little more up close. Of course, as a catamaran in Waikiki, I’m a bit spoiled, but I think you should be too. I’m never sure exactly when the whales will show up, but with 10,000+ in our waters, there’s a pretty good chance that I can catch up with them, even if only for a few minutes.

I suggest our afternoon or sunset cruises for whale watching, those are the times of days when it’s easiest to spot the whales.

How to Spot Whales in Hawaii

The best way to see whales from my decks is to watch very carefully for their “blow” when they expel water at the surface.

The blow is an unmistakable sight! But if you’re worried about missing them, don’t worry too much. My crew is very good at spotting whales and they know where to look for them too.

My crew loves seeing whales as much as you do, so don’t worry, they’ll be on the look out too. And when they see them they’ll excitedly point  them out to you, so have your cameras ready!

Whenever possible, the crew will often get photos and video too. So watch my Facebook and Instagram closely in the next couple of months and you’re likely to spot whales without even getting on a plane.

We hope you’ll join us this winter for what’s sure to be another great whale vacation!

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