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Ultimate Guide To Whale Watching in Oahu In 2024

Welcome to the beautiful island of Oahu where the crystal clear waters are home to some of the most magnificent creatures on the planet – whales!

I love seeing animals so when I began planning my first Oahu trip, going whale watching was right at the top of my list.

I found that the best way to guarantee you see whales in Oahu is to join this whale watching boat tour that departs from Waikiki.

It actually guarantees that you will see whales so is the best way to ensure you get that once in a lifetime experience!

You’ll be joined by an expert guide that knows the waters like the back of their hand.

But wait, there’s more! In the rest of this article, I’ll cover all of the amazing spots where you can catch a glimpse of these gentle giants from the shore.

Best Tours For Whale Watching In Oahu

Seeing whales from the shore can be difficult and you’ll likely struggle to get a good view.

That’s why I personally thing the best option is to join whale watching tour as the expert guides know exactly where to find the whales and you’ll get an up close view. It’s a win-win.

Here are the best whale watching tours in Oahu:

  • Guaranteed Sighting Boat Tour – this tour guarantees that you see whales so it’s the top pick overall. I personally did this tour and really loved it!
  • Whale Watching & Snorkeling Tour – this tour also includes a snorkeling activity which is super fun. It’s particularly great for families as you’ll also see turtles, dolphins & tropical fish.
  • Private Whale Watching Tour – this is the best premium pick as you’ll head out on a private boat with no other people to see the whales in all their glory.

On the whale watching tour that I did in Oahu, I was lucky enough to spot 3 whales! They jumped out of the water putting on a fantastic show for us.

Check out the video below to see some of the whales found surrounding Oahu. You can get epic views like these by joining a boat tour.

Can You See Whales From The Shore?

It is possible to see whales from the shore in Oahu but the whales tend to be further out in the ocean so you’ll struggle to get a good view.

To get a better, close-up view of the whales you should join a boat tour as you’ll actually get to see them in all their glory! This what I did and I really enjoyed it.

If you do want to just watch them from the shore then there’s many beaches across the island where you can do so.

Some even have elevated look-out points that make seeing the whales a bit easier (exact locations discussed below).

I’d recommend bringing along a pair of binoculars if you’re going whale watching to ensure you actually get a good view of the whales.

Did you know that you can also see dolphins in Oahu?

Best Places To See Whales In Oahu

Here are the top places on the island of Oahu where you should go if you want to see whales from the shore.

Makapu’u Lighthouse

One of the best places to go whale watching in Oahu is at Makapu’u Lighthouse. 

Makapu’u Lighthouse is located on the easternmost point of Oahu island. It’s a popular hiking spot that offers incredible views of the ocean making it an ideal whale watching spot.

The lighthouse is located on Makapu’u Point which sits at the top of a 647ft sea cliff. You will have to hike to get there but you’ll be rewarded with epic views and whale sightings.

I found the hike to be pretty easy and it’s only 2 miles overall. 

There is a telescope up there for whale viewing which is super helpful if you didn’t bring your binoculars. 

I spent around 45 minutes at this lookout point searching for whales and in that time I managed to see 2 whales in the distance.

You can see the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail in the video below, look out for splashes in the water (that’s the whales!):

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is an enclosed bay located on the southeastern coast of Oahu.

This bay is famed for having turquoise waters and an abundance of marine life including sea turtles. It’s actually one of the best spots to see turtles in Honolulu.

It’s a very popular tourist and snorkeling destination so expect big crowds.

During whale watching season, whales can often be spotted just off the shore here.

The best place to see them is by walking up to the hilltop which overlooks the bay. This is what I did and I managed to spot a whale jumping out of the water in the distance.

I heard that you can also see the whales from the beach from time to time but it’s less common. I didn’t see any from the beach, only from the lookout point.

The video below shows a whale sighting from Hanauma Bay:

Find out where to go whale watching in Maui.

Diamond Head

Diamond Head, also known as Leahi by the native Hawaiians, is a volcanic crater located on the south coast of Oahu. It’s popular for its incredible ocean viewpoints and hiking trails.

There are various viewpoints at Diamond Head that look out over the ocean. All of these are fantastic spots for whale watching due to their elevation. 

Don’t forget to bring some binoculars for the best view as it’s hard to see the whales without them.

I did manage to see a whale up on Diamond Head but I was waiting a good 40 minutes before one showed up. It was lucky because I was just about to leave!

The below video shows an amazing sighting of a whale jumping out of the water, spotted from Diamond Head:

Find out where to see whales on Big Island.

Best Time For Whale Watching

Oahu’s whale watching season runs from November until April so this is the best time to visit the island for whale watching.

I personally visited in January which is one of the best months for whale sightings.

The first whales arrive in Oahu in late November and more arrive as the season progresses. 

Whale numbers around the island of Oahu peak in January, February and March.

This is the best time to go whale watching in Oahu as sightings are almost guaranteed if you go to the right places (like the spots I listed above).

The whales begin to leave Oahu in late April/early May.

The table below shows the best months for whale watching in Oahu & your chances of seeing whales:

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 in Oahu is early morning. Numbers are highest at around 8am so you’re more likely to see a whale if you head out at this time. 

Early morning is when the whales tend to be most active. Another good time is late afternoon just before sunset when the whales become a bit more active again.

You can sometimes spot whales in the daytime in Oahu but it’s less common. 

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

Find out where to go whale watching in Kauai.

About Oahu’s Whales

Oahu is actually one of the world’s best locations for whale watching as the whales show up here very consistently.

Every single winter without fail, 12,000 – 18,000 humpback whales migrate over 3,500 miles all the way from Alaska to Hawaii to mate, give birth and raise their young. 

As winter comes to a close, they migrate back up north to feed and build up fat reserves.

The waters surrounding Hawaii (particularly Oahu) provide a safe environment for them to raise their calves as it’s far away from predators and gives the whales a chance to rest.

The whales tend to come up for air every 15 to 20 minutes or so and this is when you’ll get a magnificent glimpse of them as they spray water up into the air & splash back down into the ocean.

And that’s it! That’s exactly how you can go whale watching in Oahu and see these magnificent creatures up close and personal (or from afar).

Did you know that Oahu is also a haven for sea turtles? You can see turtles in Waikiki or venture up to Oahu’s north shore to see the turtles lounging around on the beaches.

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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.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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