Welcome to my ultimate guide about whale watching on Big Island in Hawaii! At certain times of year, these gentle giants can often be spotted around Hawaii’s largest island.
If you’ve read this blog before then you’ll know I’m a big fan of whale watching and I’ve actually done it on all of the Hawaiian islands now. The last island to tick off on my list was Big Island!
It is possible to see whales from the shores of Big Island but you won’t get a good view as the whales are far out in the ocean.
That’s why I recommend booking onto a whale watching boat tour as you’ll get an up close view of the whales!
This boat tour actually guarantees a whale sighting so it’s the perfect choice.
But wait, there’s more! In the rest of this article, I’ll reveal all of the exact locations on Big Island where you can see whales.
Table of Contents
Best Tours For Whale Watching On Big Island
Here’s the best whale watching tours on Big Island:
- Whale Watching Boat Tour – top pick, guaranteed whale sightings, departs from Kona. This is the tour I personally did and I saw 4 whales!
- Rafting Tour – search for whales aboard a raft, great for adventure lovers.
- Helicopter Tour – get aerial views of Hawaii’s volcanoes, beaches and valleys + look out for migrating whales.
- Private Boat Tour – premium pick, escape the crowds with your own private boat.
I ended up going on the whale watching boat tour from Kona and had the absolute best time!
I managed to see 4 whales which I was really pleased with as I’d heard that Big Island wasn’t that great for whale watching. Turns out it’s epic!!
Check out the video below which shows some of the amazing whale views you can get whilst on a whale watching boat tour:
Did you know that you can also see turtles in Kona?
Can You See Whales From The Shore On Big Island?
It’s definitely possible to see whales from the shore on Big Island if you know where to go.
I did manage to see several whales from the shore (I’ll tell you exactly where later) but as the whales don’t come close to the shore, I didn’t get a great view.
You’ll likely be able to see some splashes in the ocean out in the distance like I did – this is the whales coming up for air.
I’d strongly recommend booking onto a whale watching boat tour if you want to get a good view of the whales.
It’s actually insane how close you can get – there’s literally no other way to get a view of a whale like this…
Booking onto a tour like this one is also one of the only ways you can guarantee a whale sighting.
If you are planning on just watching the whales from a distance along the shore then make sure you bring along a pair of binoculars so you get a better view.
Best Places To See Whales On Big Island
Here are all the exact locations on Big Island where you have a chance of seeing a whale from the shore.
In my experience, the best place to go whale watching on Big Island is along the Kohala Coast.
Sightings of whales on the Kohala Coast are super common. In fact, sightings are 2 – 3 times more likely here than anywhere else on the island.
The Kohala Coast is just the northwestern portion of Big Island. There’s many places along this stretch of coast where you can observe whales in the ocean.
These include Kapa’a Beach Park, Lapakahi State Historical Park, Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Pololu Valley and Holoholokai Beach Park (all discussed below).
You can see the whales found along the Kohala Coast in the video below:
Find out where to see whales in Maui.
Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
The Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site lies on the northwestern coast of Big Island.
It preserves the ruins of the last ancient Hawaiian temple and is also a popular spot for whale watching.
I personally really enjoyed exploring the ruins and the fact I saw a couple of whales out in the ocean just made it even more special!
This spot is an excellent site for spotting whales due to it’s elevated views which overlook the Kawaihae Harbor. Just look out for the splashes far out at sea.
You can also often spot reef sharks and dolphins here too.
Lapakahi State Historical Park
Lapakahi State Historical Park is a large area of ruins from an ancient Hawaiian fishing village. It lies within the North Kohala District.
This park is located on the northeastern tip of Big Island and is great for whale watching due to its 100ft elevation! You’ll often see whales just off the shore.
I managed to spot one within 5 minutes of arriving. That’s a record right!?
Did you know you can also see whales in Oahu?
Kapa’a Beach Park
Kapa’a Beach Park is a remote beach on Big Island’s northwestern coast.
This small, quiet, rocky beach provides fantastic views of the shoreline and ocean which is perfect for whale watching.
Whales are commonly spotted here during whale watching season. Binoculars are definitely a must for the best possible view.
I didn’t have any binoculars with me and I definitely saw a couple of whales but they were so far out at sea so I didn’t get the best view. I did love the serene atmosphere of the beach though.
Check out the video below which shows a whale sighting from Kapa’a Beach Park:
Pololu Valley is one of several valleys found on the east coast of the Kohala Mountain.
This picturesque gorge features trails and beaches with epic ocean views making it a prime spot for whale watching.
I found that the best place to see whales here was at the Pololu Valley Lookout as you get a great view of the ocean from above. I did manage to see one whale from up here.
Holoholokai Beach Park
Holoholokai Beach Park is a black, lava rock beach located on Big Island’s northwestern shore.
On this beach you can often see whales in the ocean along with other marine life such as dolphins and sea turtles.
I didn’t have time to visit this one unfortunately but it was recommended to me by the guide on my whale watching tour (and he knows a lot about whales so I trust him).
Find out where to see whales in Kauai.
Best Time For Whale Watching
November to April is the official whale watching season on Big Island which makes it the best time to see whales out in the ocean.
Whales begin to arrive at Big Island in late November, with more coming in as the season progresses.
The peak season for whale watching on the island is from January to March, during which sightings are almost guaranteed if you visit the right spots (discussed above).
Towards the end of April, the whales start to leave the island. To summarize, the best months for whale watching on Big Island are displayed in the table below.
|Month||Chance Of |
Seeing A Whale
|January||Very Good Chance|
|February||Very Good Chance|
|March||Very Good Chance|
If you want to increase your chances of seeing whales whilst whale watching on Big Island, I’d recommended going early in the morning as this is when the whales are most active.
The peak time for whale sightings is around 8am when the numbers are highest.
Another good time to go is late in the afternoon just before sunset. While it is less common, you can sometimes spot whales during the daytime as well.
The below video gives some more information on whale season in Hawaii:
About Big Island’s Whales
Big Island in Hawaii is globally known as one of the best locations for whale watching.
Every winter, around 12,000 to 18,000 humpback whales travel over 3,500 miles from Alaska to Hawaii to mate, give birth, and raise their calves.
Once winter is over, the whales return to their feeding grounds up north to build up their fat reserves.
The waters surrounding Hawaii provide a secure environment for the whales to raise their calves, away from predators, and allows them to rest.
While surfacing for air every 15 to 20 minutes, the whales create a spectacular display as they spray water up into the air.
And that’s it! That’s all you need to know about whale watching on Big Island in Hawaii.
I hope that this guide has helped to inspire you to head out on your own whale watching adventure.
If you’re staying in Big Island’s largest town, Hilo, then did you know that you can swim with turtles? I explain where to see turtles in Hilo in my ultimate guide.