Whale Watching from Kawaihae

The humpback whale sightings in Kawaihae have really picked up over this last week with multiple pods being sighted every time we sail. With more animals in the area comes more activity, like competition groups, breaching, tail slapping, inflated head lunges, pectoral fin slaps and spy hops. These are the behaviors we always hope to see in addition to hearing their wonderful song during the whale season here in Kawaihae.

There are several factors that contribute to making an area the best whale watching it can be. I feel the Kawaihae area of Hawaii Island is the best overall humpback whale watching in the state of Hawaii. Here’s why:

We have the environmental conditions here that humpback whales congregate to. Our relatively shallow sandy bottom areas with clear water helps with low predator populations. We typically have calm ocean surface conditions and very low boat traffic. The humpback whales are here to mate and more importantly give birth and and nurse their calves to a healthy weight and strength for the long, deep blue journey back to the northeast. To have a peaceful and safe place for the calves to do this is critical to the species’ survival and our whale watching industry here in Kohala.

I have watched humpback whales throughout Hawaii for over 30 years and have come to the conclusion that this area of the South Kohala coast, particularly Kawaihae, is now the best overall and it’s basically because of some of the same reasons that it’s good for the humpbacks: we have the numbers of whales, we have calm perfect spotting conditions usually, and best of all we have a very low number of tour boats . It’s not uncommon for us to spend several trips in a day without any other boats around which really gives us a nice insight to the undisturbed humpback’s life in a day. Some popular whale watching areas around the state like Kona or Lahaina may have numerous boats congregating on one pod of animals or just a cow and calf. This cant be good for the peace and well being of the animals. Have you ever heard propellers through a hydrophone? The especially high RPM outboard motors are almost deafening in a normally peaceful acoustical world. We at Kohala Blue intentionally utilize low RPM motors and run silent under sail whenever we can. Lastly, it’s just plain harassment and disrespectful to surround or crowd a pod of humpbacks or a mother and calf or the spinner dolphins with numerous boats while each operator is just mainly focused about his/her own viewing advantage.

I will finish this blog up with a note to operators and their passengers in this area:

As humpback whale sightings steadily decrease yearly around the state, the operators of this area in particular must be evermore respectful to these animals and understand that in order for us in Kawaihae to continue to be the best place in Hawaii to watch humpback whales, we must always be mindful, respectful, considerate and careful in how we watch these majestic animals. If we see an operator being disrespectful, inconsiderate and not careful we must speak up and say something. The operators and their passengers of  South Kohala truly have a gift in Kawaihae as the best place in Hawaii to watch the majestic humpbacks so let’s show them the respect they deserve and hopefully keep Kawaihae as “the best place in Hawaii to watch the humpback whale.”

And let’s not forget we do operate under one of the most sacred Hawaiian cultural sites in all of Hawaii, Pu’u Kohala (hill of the whale) Heiau.

Kohala no ka oi,

Capt. Steve


Nick Kern