HAWAI’I VISITOR GUIDES

Exploring Hawai’i’s Whale Watching: A Comprehensive Guide

Humpbacks & Hawai’i

WHALE SEASON IS NOVEMBER – APRIL

It is officially Humpback whale season here in Hawaiʻi! Whale season in Hawai’i is November – April, with the majority of sightings happening in December, January, and February. But, if you come sailing with us through March you’ll hopefully catch a glimpse of these incredible animals. While most whales are spotted on Maui, many pods travel through the other islands, including O’ahu. As much as we enjoy seeing the humpbacks, we also care about their safety. These whales travel from Alaska and British Columbia to mate and tend to their young before traveling back home (1).

WHY ARE WHALES IMPORTANT FOR THE OCEAN

Humpback whales play key roles in the ecosystem by feeding, excreting waste, and migrating, distributing important nutrients to the ocean. They play an essential role in carbon sequestration and can deliver nearly 30,000 tons of carbon to the deep sea each year (2). During their lifetime, they contribute nutrients that are vital to phytoplankton growth and marine algae carbon sequestration.

Before their long 6,000-mile journey, North Pacific Humpbacks stock up on krill to get them through migration. Although they migrate to warm waters, rising global temperatures will only hurt Baleen Whale populations. Humpbacks may not be directly impacted by warming waters, however, the resulting reduced upwelling produces less krill (4). Climate change also creates ocean acidification, reducing the growth capabilities of crustaceans and zooplankton. This leads to less energy available to baleen whales.

In 1992 the United States Congress created the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Sanctuary to install protection acts for endangered populations. Here at Sailing Eternal Tides, we comply with the prohibition of approaching Cetaceans and provide opportunities to watch Humpbacks here in Hawaiʻi. We follow the guidelines of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

WHALES & HAWAIIAN CULTURE

Native Hawaiians have very spiritual connections to kuapi‘o koholā, or the Humpback Whale. Throughout Hawaii, ʻaumakua is when an ancestor takes the form of an animal that will appear as a spiritual guide. It is important to respect and protect all ʻaumakua, which can be turtles, owls, humpback whales, or sharks (3).

In 1992 the United States Congress created the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Sanctuary to install protection acts for endangered populations. Here at Sailing Eternal Tides, we comply with the prohibition of approaching Cetaceans and provide opportunities to watch Humpbacks here in Hawaiʻi. We follow the guidelines of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Boaters are required to maintain a 100-yard (90m) distance (and not approach the whales) and 1,000 feet (300m) for aircraft (including drones). We take these rules seriously to protect them, and us from collisions. Our boat is a sailboat, so propeller collision and noise disturbance aren’t a worry if the Whales do decide to approach us.

For many years, the prevailing belief was that whales residing in Hawai’i survived without actively feeding, relying solely on their blubber. You might hear this on large whale-watching tours. However, recent scientific revelations debunk this notion. Although whales in Hawai’i consume less due to limited food availability, they still engage in feeding activities. Four months is a long time to go without a meal!

Babies jump more than adult whales! While scientists think this has to do with caloric needs we like to think the babies are just having fun.

We can identify whales with just a pic of their tail using AI! Each whale tail is unique If on the tour with us, we’ll submit photos to ‘HappyWhale’ for identification and tracking.

Whale breaching out of ocean

Laws that protect whales

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Contributing to conservation

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Closeup Photography of Whale

Environmentally Friendly Whale Watching Tours on each Hawaiian Island

BELOW ARE A LIST OF BOAT OPERATORS ON EACH ISLAND THAT OFFER EXCELLENT WHALE-WATCHING TOURS THAT DON’T HARASS, CHASE, OR HARM THE ANIMALS (WHICH INCLUDES: DOLPHINS, TURTLES, WHALES, AND MONK SEALS).

O’ahu

Sailing Eternal Tides

Wild side

Maui

pac whale foundation

Kaua’i

holo holo charters

blue dolphin charters

Big Island

captain zodiac