From November thru May, locals and tourists alike flock to Hawaii shores to watch these majestic ocean creatures frolic, dance and float their way around our coastlines. For those of you who are headed to Hawaii and are determined to see these guys, read on to get all the local tips you'll need!
#1 The Best Month For Whale Watching...
...Is February! With January and March in second place. February is the peak month (in my opinon) and if you're budget-conscious, you probably won't have to spend extra money to go on a whale watching cruise. You can just as easily see them from shore or on a nice hike.
Keep in mind that your chances of seeing a whale also depends on which island you're staying on. My favorite island to whale watch from is most definitely Maui. And if you happen to be going to Lanai or Molokai, you'll be pretty lucky as well.
Just check out this density map of humpback whales in Hawaii from the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
#2 The Best Whale Watching Volunteer Activity
Going to the Big Island instead? You can help by volunteering to count whales. Sign ups are every year in December and count days are on the last Saturday of January, February and March.
#3 The Best Shores For Whale Watching
While you'll probably have plenty of chances to spot whales in Maui, Lanai and Molokai, the other islands require that you drive to a certain part of the island in order to see some whales.
:: The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is an easy pavement trail and almost anyone can make it to the top. Even the multiple rest stops/viewing points between the bottom and the lighthouse provide a fantastic view with the possible forecast of whales to be seen.
:: My favorite spot is the Puukohala Heiau National Historic Site AKA The Hill of the Whale. The whales will cross back and forth here and there's even a nice park next door where you'll be able to enjoy a picnic.
:: While the Poipu area is the most popular for whale viewing on Kauai, you may want to try Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge if you'll be on Kauai during February. Why? Because you can also spot dolphins and island birds here!
#4 When To Pay (And Not Pay) For A Whale Watching Tour
If you're coming to Hawaii outside of peak whale watching months, then I recommend trying out a whale watching tour. Here are my tips to get your money's worth:
:: MOST whale watching companies will allow you to book another tour if you do not see any whales. Make sure that the company practices this policy before you reserve your ticket.
:: Try to reserve this activity for the beginning of your trip. If it's not successful, you'll still have time to book another outing on a later date.
:: Some tours provide a brunch or lunch along with your whale watching activity. If you end up booking another reservation, then another free meal may be included on your next booking as well. Two meals for the price of one!
:: A small, private boat does not mean a better view. A small boat means less viewing spots if their bookings are maxed out. You'll also be looking at the whale directly and often times the whales will just float instead of spending energy to breach and bob out of the water.
:: You may want to consider a larger boat with at least 2 decks. The viewing platform is spread out and you'll be able to see the whale from an angle above if you're standing on the second deck.