Big Island Whale Watching mother and calf

A mother and calf just below the surface

Big Island Whale Watching Hawaii Oceanic

Hawaii Oceanic - whale watching with friendly and knowledgeable guides

Big Island Whale Watching mother and calf breaching

A calf breaches in front of her mom's giant splash

Big Island Whale Watching whale tail

Whale tales are a common sight & signal the start of a deep dive

Big Island Whale Watching Hawaii Ocean Sports sailing catamarans

Hawaii Ocean Sports - Sailing catamarans from Waikoloa

Big Island Whale Watching mother jumping

Imagine getting this close to a flying whale!

Big Island Whale Watching mother breaching

Witnessing a whale breaching up close is a breathtaking!

Big Island Whale Watching a baby humpback coming out the water

A baby humpback whale comes out of the water to see the view, too!

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Humpback whales migrate to Hawaii in large numbers from December to April every year.  It is common to see people standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean and watching for signs of distant whale activity through binoculars. However, the best whale watching experiences are from a boat. Out at sea you get a much closer view…sometimes they surface right alongside the boat!  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 at the pictures above and then do yourself a favor and go on a whale watch. Here is a selection of Big Island whale watching tours or other cruises on which you are likely to see whales.

Waikoloa Whale Watching – 8am Whale Watch

Hawaii Ocean Sports offers Wake Up With the Whales – 2 hour morning whale watch on a sailing catamaran, casting off from the shore of Waikoloa. Kona coffee, juices, soft drinks, and granola bars are served. Morning trips are ideal because the waters are the calmest and whale sightings are guaranteed from December 15 – April 15! See a humpback or you can ride again for free!

Check In: Anaeho’omalu Bay (locals call it A-bay), on the ocean side of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort

GPS: 69-275 Waikoloa Beach Dr Waikoloa, HI 96743 Click to view map

Tour includes: Kona coffee, juices, soft drink, and granola bars

Waikoloa Whale Watching – 10am Whale Watch

Hawaii Ocean Sports offers whale watching on a sailing catamaran casting off from the shore of Waikoloa. The 2 hour whale watching tour includes crunchy snacks, soft drinks and water.  The morning light is magical for photos.

Check In: Ocean Sports “Kama’aina Korner Outlet” store at Kawaihae Harbor Click to view map

Tour includes: Snacks and soft drinks

Waikoloa Whale Watching – 4pm Sunset Whales and Cocktails

Hawaii Ocean Sports offers whale watching on a sailing catamaran casting off from the shore of Waikoloa.  The 2 hour whale watch includes snacks and an open bar for beer, wine, and cocktails.

Check In: You have the option of driving to Kawaihae Harbor, pick up at limited properties, or pick up at Hawaii Ocean Sports store at the Queen’s Marketplace.

GPS: Kawaihae Harbor - 613651 A Kawaihae Rd, Waimea, HI 96743 Click to view map OR Queen’s Marketplace - 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738 Click to view map

Tour includes: Snacks and complimentary open bar

Hawaii Oceanic

On the Humpback two hour whale watch tour you will cruise the beautiful waters of the Kona Coast, looking for pods of humpback whales. Humpbacks migrate to the Hawaiian waters during the winter months to calve and mate.  Because the Pueo Kai takes only 6 guests out on each ocean adventure, you have all the room and space you need to enjoy these magnificent creatures. To witness a breach is spectacular! Observing the gentle giants taking care of their newborn calves is nothing short of amazing!

During the season, whale sightings are a 99% success rate with Hawaii Oceanic on the Pueo Kai.

Schedule: Daily at 1pm

Duration: 2 hours

Check In: Honokohau Harbor off Highway 19 (2.2 miles north of Kailua Kona town and 5.1 miles south of the Kona International Airport)

GPS: 74-380 Kealakehe Pkwy Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 Click to view map

Tour includes: Snacks, beverages, and complimentary photos

What to Bring & Wear: Comfortable clothes and shoes, hat, sunglasses, camera, sunscreen.

Vessel: 30 foot power catamaran

Capacity: 6

whale watching
A calf breaches by it's mother
big island whale watching
Watch these magnificent creatures jump and play

CBig Island Whale Watchingruise Ship Passengers

Big Island 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.

Activity Tips

Kevin Ditamore – Owner / Manager

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 “whale soup.”

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 powerful puff of a steam engine locomotive.

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!