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Ultimate Guide To Whale Watching in Kauai In 2024

Aloha and welcome to Kauai where, at certain times of year, you have the chance to see whales out in the ocean!

When I visited Kauai for the first time recently, seeing whales out in the wild was right at the top of my list! Now that I’ve done it, I’d love to share my experience with you.

If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of these majestic humpback whales then you’ll want to book onto a boat tour for the best chance of seeing them up close.

They can be difficult to see from the shore (more on that later) so booking onto a boat tour is the best way to up your chances of seeing a whale!

But don’t stop reading just yet – in the rest of this post I’ll reveal the exact locations of the best spots for whale watching in Kauai.

Best Tours For Whale Watching In Kauai

whale watching in Kauai

As I mentioned, booking onto a tour is the best way to almost guarantee a whale sighting.

You’ll always be accompanied by an expert guide who knows the island well and will know where to find whales without fail.

These are the best whale watching tours in Kauai:

  • Rafting Adventure – cruise along the coastline searching for whales and stop off for snorkeling (great for families).

I ended up booking the whale watching boat tour and really enjoyed it. I was lucky enough to spot 3 huge whales on the tour and they all put on a fantastic show for us.

Check out the video below to see the types of epic whale views you can expect from the rafting adventure tour:

Can You See Whales From The Shore?

It’s definitely possible to see whales from the shore in Kauai but as the whales don’t ever come close to the shore, you won’t get the best view.

I did manage to spot a few from the shore but it was more of a splash out in the distance and was a very different experience to seeing them up close from the boat. It was still pretty cool though.

That’s why I’d recommend booking onto a whale watching boat tour for the best view of the whales.

You’ll be able to get an up-close view of the whales that you just can’t get from the shore. 

whale watching in Kauai

Having said that, if you bring along your binoculars then you’ll still be able to see them from the shore.

There’s plenty of great viewing spots across the island including beaches and lookout points (exact locations discussed below).

The Best Places To See Whales In Kauai

Map of Kauai showing where to go whale watching.
Map of Kauai showing where to go whale watching.

Here are the exact place on Kauai where you can go whale watching from the shore!

Make sure you keep reading until the end as I give some super useful whale watching tips like what time of day you can see the whales (this is important as you can’t see them at certain times).

Poipu Beach

Based on my own experience, I’d say the best place to go whale watching in Kauai is on Poipu Beach.

Poipu Beach is a glorious sandy beach located on Kauai’s southern shore. It’s popular for snorkeling, surfing and whale watching during whale season.

The beach is also a popular hangout for Hawaiian monk seals.

From Poipu Beach, you can often see whales splashing about on the horizon whilst sitting on the beach. The crystal clear waters make it really easy to spot them. 

I was lucky enough to spot a couple of whales in the distance after sitting on the beach for half an hour.

Find out where to see whales in Oahu too!

Kilauea Lighthouse

Kilauea Lighthouse is located at Kilauea Point which sits at the northern point of Kauai island. This 52-ft lighthouse is a great spot to go whale watching. 

It’s a great place for spotting whales in the ocean due to its elevation as you get a great view of the ocean. Whale sightings here are super common during whale watching season. 

You can also often spot other marine animals here too including dolphins and seals.

I spotted 2 whales from up here after waiting around for about an hour. It was a long wait but totally worth it and I can hardly complain given the incredible scenery around me.

Kalalau Trail

The Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile hiking trail that goes from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach along the Na Pali coast of Kauai island.

This is often considered to be one of the best hikes in Hawaii and is also a great spot for whale watching. 

You get fantastic panoramic ocean views from the trail which crosses sea cliffs and valleys. I really enjoyed this hike and would do it regardless.

Whales can often be seen jumping off shore. You’ll likely be able to see other marine animals from here too.

Kapaa Overlook

The Kapaa Overlook is located on Kauia’s eastern shore between Kapaa Town and Kealia Beach. 

Map showing the location of Kapaa Overlook.

This elevated overlook has epic ocean views making it a prime spot for whale watching.

It’s super common to spot a whale from up here and it’s often much quieter than other whale watching spots in Kauai.

When I went, I got a whale sighting all to myself. There was literally nobody else there so it was just me and the whale.

A paved trail runs in front of the overlook leading down to Kealia Beach where you can also sometimes spot whales too. You’ll get a much better view from the overlook though.

Did you know you can also see whales in Maui?

Best Time For Whale Watching

The best time of year for whale watching is between the months of November and April. This is the official ‘whale watching season’ in Kauai.

The first whales tend to arrive in Kauai at the end of November and more whales arrive soon after.

The most whales can be found in the months of January, February and March – this is peak whale watching season in Kauai.

During these months, whale sightings are virtually guaranteed if you go to the right places.

At the end of April/start of May, the whales begin to leave as whale season comes to a close.

The table below shows the best months for whale watching in Kauai:

MonthChance Of
Seeing A Whale
JanuaryVery Good Chance
FebruaryVery Good Chance
MarchVery Good Chance
AprilGood Chance
MayLow Chance
JuneNo Chance
JulyNo Chance
AugustNo Chance
SeptemberNo Chance
OctoberNo Chance
NovemberLow Chance
DecemberGood Chance

The best time of day to go whale watching is early in the morning or just before sunset.

Whale numbers tend to be highest at around 8am so you’re more likely to see a whale if you head out at this time. I definitely had the most luck in the early morning.

At this time, the whales are also really active and can constantly be seen coming up for air.

Another good time to see the whales is in the late afternoon just before sunset. 

You can occasionally spot a whale during the daytime but it’s much less common. 

The below video gives some more information on whale season in Hawaii:

Find out where to go whale watching on Big Island.

About Kauai’s Whales

The Hawaiian island of Kauai is a fantastic place for whale watching.

Every single winter, between 12,000 and 18,000 humpback whales travel all the way from Alaska down to Hawaii to mate, give birth to their young and raise their babies.

At the end of whale season, they head back up north towards Alaska to feed and build up their fat reserves.

Kauai provides a safe environment for the whales and their young, far away from predators meaning the whales can get some well deserved rest.

You’ll tend to see the whales whenever they come up for air as they jump up out of the ocean, splashing water everywhere. They tend to come up for air once every 15 – 20 minutes.

And that’s it! That’s all you need to know about going whale watching in Kauai.

Did you know that Kauai is also one of the best places in Hawaii to see seals? Yep, there’s literally thousands of them!

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Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

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