The Best Time to See Whales in Hawaii

Aloha, whale enthusiasts!

I’m thrilled to share the ultimate Hawaiian adventure that left me and my boyfriend in awe. You see, we’re huge fans of these gentle giants, so we embarked on a journey to find the best time and place to witness them in their natural habitat. If you’re anything like us, I know you’ll appreciate the insider tips I’ve gathered during our unforgettable experience.

I get it – you don’t want to miss out on capturing those Instagram-worthy moments with whales gracefully swimming nearby. Trust me; I’ve been there too! But fear not, as someone who has spent months researching and exploring Hawaii’s waters for humpback whales, I’m here to help you maximize your chances of spotting them.

Throughout this article, you’ll discover everything from when and where is best for whale watching in Hawaii. Thanks to our wild escapades across multiple islands (and even some local advice), we can confidently guide you toward an experience that will leave a lasting impression.

Warning: Be prepared for serious FOMO from friends after they see your incredible whale-watching photos!

So buckle up and join me on this oceanic journey as we explore the wonders of Hawaii’s humpback whales together. Let’s dive into it!

Whale Watching Season in Hawaii

If you’re looking for guaranteed whale sightings from aboard tours, then the months of December till February are peak whale watching seasons in Hawaii, as winter brings the most abundant whales.

However, whale sightings begin as early as the end of September, when the first humpbacks migrate from Alaska to warm Hawaiian waters. So you can spot them from snorkeling tours in the Fall months lasting till November and from whale watching tours from December. 

The Different Whale Sightings in Hawaii

The first whales that migrate to Hawaii include juvenile males who are still learning the mating process and mothers with young calves. After them, the adult males arrive and initiate mating, which you can hear through whale songs. 

Finally, the pregnant females come, who give birth to their young in the Hawaiian waters and nurse them until they can swim on their own. 

This natural progression continues until the whale season declines in April, with the last sightings in May and sometimes June.

Each island in Hawaii promises whale sightings from its shores, and you can learn about their timings, peak months, and the best tours to see whales below. 

Best Time to See Whales on Maui

Whales frequent the Maui waters more than any other island, and you can see them from late Fall to Spring. 

The official season for whale watching in Maui is from December 15 until January 15, with February being the peak month as most young whales can be seen breaching the shore and mimicking their mothers. 

You can spot whales in Maui from early morning and afternoon tours, as there are more breaches when the waves are calm. 

My boyfriend and I always make a stop in Maui for whale watching, as the winters are the best time to see whales in Hawaii. Here’s why you’ll agree:

  • Marine education and conservation programs in Maui help you learn about whale habitats.
  • The Maui Whale Festival is held in February and includes walks and marathons for all ages and a film festival. 
  • Maui’s whale-watching tours have special segments for children to learn about whales. 

Whale watching tours from Maui

Maui offers incredible whale-watching tours from its shores, which are led by experienced crews and guarantee whale sightings. 

We love taking this 2-hour whale-watching tour from the Lahaina Harbor with a marine naturalist on board who briefs you about whale behaviors and includes hearing whale songs from a hydrophone. 

To see the action up close, you’ll love taking this whale-watching tour from an eco-raft that places you on eye level with the whales. 

For those seeking some comfort on the whale-watching adventure, sail aboard a double-decker catamaran with spacious decks to view the whales breaking the shore.

Best Time to See Whales on the Big Island

A close second to Maui is the Big Island when it comes to seeing whales, and you can spot them from Hilo Bay, Kona, and the Kohala coast. Since whales in Maui are called Kohala, it’s believed that the first humpback whales arrived on this coast in ancient times. 

The best time to see whales on the Big Island is the same as most places in Hawaii, beginning in November and lasting till April. However, peak whale watching season on the Big Island is in January and February, when you can take the best tours. 

The time of day for guaranteed whale sightings on the Big Island is as early as 8 AM and also around sunset when whales are most active. 

We love whale watching on the Big Island, as its quaint shores during winter is the best time to see whales in Hawaii.

  • The Kealakekua Bay on Big Island is terrific for snorkeling and whale sightings all season long. 
  • The whale sightings on Big Island are so abundant that you can hear whale songs clearly from aboard boats.
  • The Kohala Coast is well-known as the best place to sight whales in Hawaii.

Whale watching tours from Big Island

You can take the best whale-watching tours from the Big Island, which sail aboard rafts and cruise ships for the best experience. 

We love taking this tour aboard a high-speed zodiac raft that sails to whale hotspots on the Kona coast, as whales often swim close to the small vessel.

If you want to ride in comfort, take this whale-watching tour aboard a catamaran, which guarantees whale sightings from December to April on the stunning Kohala Coast. 

Best Time to See Whales on Kauai

The gorgeous Kauai island is another excellent whale-watching destination, owing to its Na Pali coast that stretches for 17 miles and houses tons of marine life species. You can also spot whales from Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai’s northern end, a designated humpback whale sanctuary, Poipu on the southern coast, and West Kauai. 

Kauai’s whale watching season begins in December and lasts till May, with the best months to spot whales being in the winter months.

My boyfriend and I rate the whale watching in Kauai one of the best, as the island’s coastal views are unmatched and add to the beauty of sighting whales. 

Here’s why Kauai’s peak seasons are the best time to see whales in Hawaii:

  • Tours on the Na Pali side guarantee whale sightings along with exploring the stunning coast.
  • You can spot whales from Poipu beach, Kilauea Lighthouse, Kealia beach, and Kapaa even without tours.
  • You can see whales breaching the shore from your accommodations near the coast!

Whale watching tours from Kauai

Kauai’s whale-watching tours combine snorkeling with exploring the Na Pali coast, so you can enjoy multiple wondrous sights by taking them.

We love this whale and dolphin watching tour on a raft, which takes small groups from Koloa and promises the best action from the whales in Kauai.

Another great tour is this half-day adventure on the Na Pali coast which includes lighting whales, dolphins, and Hawaiian green sea turtles up close.

Best Time to See Whales on Oahu

As Hawaii’s most visited island, Oahu is a favorite spot for whale watching, with the most frequent sightings on the East, North, and West shores. You can also spot whales during peak season in Oahu from the Makapu’u Lighthouse, Hanauma Bay, and seaside overlooks near Diamond Head. 

The whale sightings in Oahu last from December till May, with the option to charter a private boat out to sea and spot whales without getting crowded with strangers on a tour. 

However, we find that Oahu’s guided tours are a great way to spot humpback whales and other marine life, like sea turtles and spinner dolphins. 

Here’s why Oahu’s peak seasons are the best time to see whales in Hawaii:

  • Oahu offers the most comfortable whale-watching tours aboard luxury catamarans and yachts.
  • You can spot whales in Oahu from beaches on the North and East shores.
  • Oahu’s whale-watching tours are accessible as they mostly begin from Waikiki.

Whale watching tours from Oahu

We love taking this whale-watching tour from Waikiki aboard a catamaran or monohull, which includes information about whale behavior and migration patterns.

Another great whale-watching tour aboard a luxury cruise vessel combines whale watching with sightseeing coastal views of Honolulu, Diamond Head, and the Kahala Gold Coast.


What is the best month for whale watching in Hawaii?

The months of December till April are the best for whale watching in Hawaii, as humpbacks frequent all the Hawaiian islands during these months. Although you can also spot whales in Hawaii as early as September and as late as June, these are mostly rare.

Which Hawaiian island is best for whales?

Maui and the Big Island are the best Hawaiian islands for spotting whales. Most humpbacks migrate to their shores, and you can view them up close through whale-watching tours on their shores.

What time of day are whales most active in Hawaii?

Whales in Hawaii are most active early in the day and until noon. You can also spot whales when it’s windy, as they like to breach the shore and experience the wind tickling their skin.

Wrapping up The Best Time to See Whales in Hawaii

If you’ve made it this far in the article, you know Hawaii has some terrific opportunities to spot whales from its islands. The whale migration season in Hawaii begins in late Fall in November and lasts till Spring in May, so you can spot humpback whales mating, breeding, and nursing their young during this time period.

The islands provide whale watching from guided tours that take you to whale hotspots, explain the behaviors and migration patterns of these creatures and educate you about preserving their natural habitat.

So make sure to take a whale-watching tour the next time you visit Hawaii from the ones mentioned above, and you’ll be thanking us later!

Last Updated on April 3, 2023 by Brigitte