Big Island Whale Watching mother and calf

A mother and calf just below the surface

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 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.

Hawaii Nautical Waikoloa – A Bay Whale Watch

Hawaii Nautical offers a guaranteed whale sightings whale watch on board one of their Waikoloa-based vessels. If you don’t see whales on your tour you can go again for free! The 9:45am timeslot is normally done on their 40′ powerboat Halona, and the 1:45pm timeslot is normally done on their sailing catamaran The Spirit of Aloha. Exact vessel used for each tour time may be adjusted based upon their tour demand. They also have a 30′ powerboat and a 34′ power catamaran that are used for whale watching. Hawaii Nautical Whale Watches are 90 minutes in length.

Tour Times: 9:45am and 1:45pm

Schedule: Daily December 1 – April 15. (whale sightings guaranteed after December 15th)

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: Whale watching, Expert Narration, Soda, juice, water.

Hawaii Nautical Kona – Honokohau Harbor Whale Watch

Hawaii Nautical offers a guaranteed whale sightings whale watch on board their sailing catamaran Honi Olani which is based out of Honokohau Harbor, between downtown Kailua-Kona and the Kona Airport. This location is best for guests staying in the downtown Kona / Ali’i Drive area. If you don’t see whales on your tour you can go again for free!  Hawaii Nautical Whale Watches are 90 minutes in length.

Tour Time: 2:15pm

Schedule: Daily December 1 – April 15. (whale sightings guaranteed after December 15th)

Check In: Honokohau Harbor slip #39, on the left side of the harbor at the far end near the ocean.

GPS: 352-429 Kealakehe Parkway Kailua-Kona, HI 96740  Click to view map

Tour includes: Whale watching, expert narration, snacks and beverages.

Hawaii Ocean Sports – 8am Waikoloa Whale Watch

Hawaii Ocean Sports offers Wake Up With the Whales – a 90 minute morning whale watch on a sailing catamaran or power 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!

Schedule: Daily December 1 – April 15. (whale sightings guaranteed after December 15th)

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

Hawaii Ocean Sports – 9:30am Waikoloa Whale Watch

Hawaii Ocean Sports offers whale watching on a sailing catamaran or power catamaran departing from Kawaihae Harbor a few minutes north of Waikoloa. This 90 minute whale watching tour includes crunchy snacks, soft drinks and water. 9:30am is the most popular time for whale watching as it still offers the advantage of morning calm but makes for a more leisurely morning without the “early rising” required for the 8am whale watch.

Schedule: Daily December 1 – April 15 (whale sightings guaranteed after December 15th)

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: Snacks and soft drinks

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 unavailable for cruise ship passengers who are in port for the day as these tours depart from the Waikoloa area which is a significant drive from the dock; You might 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.

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.

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!