Whale watching on the Big Island has been a top tourist pursuit for years,
and while you don't have to get in a boat to see whales here, it's recommended
that you do. There's nothing that compares to seeing a whale up close on a Big
Island whale watching cruise, though it is enjoyable to spot them from a privileged
location on the shoreline if your budget or schedule won't allow for a trip
out to sea. The Kohala
Coast is the best place to go if you plan on whale watching on the Big Island,
and it's also arguably the best place for whale watching in the entire state
of Hawaii. The protected waters on this leeward side of the island are exceptionally
inviting for whales, the largest of which are most likely to be spotted between
January and March.
While you can see an array of whale species throughout the year off the coast of the Big Island, December through April is when the humpback whales are most likely to arrive. These are the largest whales that you can expect to spot during Big Island whale watching, and if you're lucky, you'll see some breaching. When humpback whales breach, they leap out of the water and often expose about two-thirds of their massive bodies in the process, splashing down with a pounding crash upon re-entry. It's quite a sight to see, whether you are relatively close to the action in a boat or onshore, preferably with a pair of binoculars. Adult humpback whales can reach up to 50 feet in length and weigh around 80,000 pounds, so you can imagine the kind of splash that they can create. Humpback whales were almost hunted to the point of extinction, but their numbers have increased, and places such as Hawaii and Australia are great places to go if you want to see them in person.
Whale watching tours on the Big Island are in good supply, so you shouldn't
have trouble arranging them before or after you arrive. Kona
and Waikoloa are
two of the best places to go if you want to book a whale watching tour, though
Hilo isn't a bad destination
either. In fact, some of the best whale watching on the Big Island can be had
just outside Hilo Bay.
While searching for humpback whales is the norm on wintertime whale watching
tours on the Big Island, excursions during the other seasons often focus on
viewing melon-headed, pygmy killer, beaked, pilot, and sperm whales, all of
which can typically be spotted in winter as well. Should you go whale watching
with one of the top guides on the island, not only are you likely to see whales
leaping out of the water, but you will also get to see photographs from an underwater
camera and listen to the whales' songs through an underwater microphone.
Different kinds of boats are used for whale watching tours on the Big Island, and you can book a trip on a glass-bottom craft if you have hopes of seeing a whale swim below you. By law, Big Island whale watching boats must stay at least 100 yards away from a whale once it's been spotted, but whales can be curious, and it's not uncommon for them to swim over for a closer look. Should you get to see a whale spout up close, it is something you won't soon forget. You're also not likely to forget how unnerving it can be when a whale decides to swim under your boat. Rare as that might be, it is known to happen. However, don't worry; stories of whales tipping over boats are uncommon.
Unlike the other main Hawaiian islands of Maui,
Oahu, and Kauai,
the Big Island offers ideal whale watching conditions throughout the day. Mauna
Loa, which is the second-tallest mountain on the Big Island, helps block trade
winds that can more easily affect whale watching on the other Hawaiian Islands,
especially in the afternoon. One of the great things about Big Island whale
watching is the fact that often you don't have to plan a special outing to see
a whale. Admiring the sea from the beach in front of your resort or from a hillside
along the shoreline will often result in a whale sighting or two, so don't forget
to pack binoculars for your Big
Island vacation if you have a pair. Binoculars can also prove handy when
in Hawaii Volcanoes
National Park, or enjoying any other number of fun outdoor activities.