Island Whale Watching
Humpback whales are here in Hawaii waters in large numbers from December to April every year. No, you don't have to
go on a boat to see whales if you are here during the right time of
the year. It is common to see people standing on a hillside overlooking the ocean and
watching the signs of distant whale activity through binoculars.
can often SEE whales from shore ... but you can't EXPERIENCE them
from that distance. There is a tremendous
difference between watching a whale splashing in the water two miles
away and experiencing the thrill of looking over the
edge of the boat and having one of these gentle giants swim directly
underneath you. If you are here during peak season, look hard at the pictures above and then do yourself a
favor and go on a whale watch. Here is a selection of whale watching tours or other cruises on which you are likely to see whales.
Spirit of Kona / The Makai
Blue Sea Cruises offers daily whale watches from December 15th to March 31st on one of their two vessels. The Spirit of Kona is the Big Island's only boat designed for viewing marine life above and below the surface with an upstairs observation deck and glass bottom viewports downstairs. The Makai is a smaller vessel and while it does not offer glass bottom viewing, this boat is faster at reaching the active whale pods. It also has a comfortable upper deck lounge area which offers a great viewing platform for watching the whales. The tour operator decides which boat to operate for the daily whale watch based upon the anticipated number of passengers on the morning of your tour. Departure isat 12pm from the pier in downtown Kailua-Kona. Adults are $84, chidren ages 5-11 are $63, and infants 4 & under are free.
The Spirit of Kona has added a $5 per person fuel surcharge which will be added to the cost of all their tours.
SOK / V
Waikoloa Whale Watching
Hawaii Ocean Sports offers whale watching on their two sailing catamarans in the Waikoloa area. Whale watching is available daily at three different times!
8am Breakfast and Whales ... 2 hour whale watching tour including a continental breakfast and steamy Kona coffee. Adults $111.04, Children 6-12 $55.52, 5 & under free
10am Whale Watch ... 2 hour whale watching tour. Adults $92.38, Children 6-12 $46.19, 5 & under free
3pm Whales and Cocktails ... 2 hour whale watching and an open bar for beer, wine, and cocktails. Adults $111.04, Children 6-12 $55.52, 5 & under free
HOS / V
Whale Watching is available for cruise ship passengers who are in port for the day; the best choice is the Spirit of Kona / Makai whale watch as it leaves from the same pier where your ship arrives. You might also consider doing your whale
watching on Maui.
No, you don't have to go on a boat to see whales. During
the peak season (mid-January to mid-April) it is very common to be able to
see whales from the shore. But these sightings are usually pretty far away
... it is not a particularly impressive sight to watch a whale jump out of
the water three miles away. And these creatures are SO impressive when you
experience them close-up. There is a big difference between SEEING a whale
and EXPERIENCING a whale. Do yourself a favor
... go on a whale watching cruise.
The Humpback Whales begin to arrive in November, and
most of them have arrived by the beginning of January. Worried if you'll
actually see a whale? It's GUARANTEED! At the end of your whale
watch you'll feel silly you ever worried about it. There are SO MANY
whales here during peak season that locals refer to the ocean as
How close will you get to the whales? That depends on
the whales. By law, the boats must stop 100 yards away from a whale. They
are incredibly curious animals though, and they OFTEN approach much
closer than that. Sometimes they mug the boat and swim directly under it ... you may even get the rare
treat of smelling whale breath! The sound of a spouting whale is something
you will not forget ... it is much like the puff of a steam engine
Spirit of Kona offers a unique chance to see whales underwater through their glass bottom viewing ports ... IF you are lucky enough to have one swim directly under the boat. Does that happen every day? Honestly ... no ... but it does happen a few times each whale season. This year the tour operator will be doing whale watches 7 days a week, either on the Spirit of Kona or on the smaller sister vessel, the Makai. The advantage of the Spirit of Kona is that there is an outside chance of getting to see a whale underwater through the glass bottom. With the Makai the advantage is that it is a smaller, faster boat that gets to the whale pods quickly. You don't get to select which boat you want to take; that decision is made by the tour operator based upon the anticipated passenger count on the morning of your tour.
We recommend Waikoloa whale watches for those staying north of the airport ... save yourself the drive into Kona town. For $5 extra the whales and cocktails cruise is a good deal, and the more you have to drink, the more whales you will see (exactly TWICE as many!)
Best time of day? Well, it doesn't much matter on the Big Island. Whales are equally active and will put on a great show all day long. The general wisdom in Hawaii is that morning is calmer than afternoon. The Kona Coast of the Big Island is a little different than Maui, Kauai, and Oahu. The sheer height of Mauna Loa blocks the trade winds and afternoons are often just as calm as the mornings. So ... go when you want. The whales are waiting for you!