See Whales Year Round in Kona

By Team

A pod of false killer whales near Kona, Hawaii. Photo: midwinter.

The Big Island is known for its geographic and ecologic diversity. A good example of that mix can be found in its resident whale population. Though the humpback whales play to crowds in the winter, they’re out of here come spring, hungry and ready to head back to their summer feeding grounds in Alaska. But that doesn’t mean, you can’t spot a whale in the summer. The waters off this island are home to substantial populations of other, lower-profile, whale types that are equally intriguing, exciting to observe, and here year-round.

Whale Species Seen Off Kona

We had the incredible fortune of encountering a large pod of pilot whales near the coast of Kona, HI. There were probably about 20 of them in total and they stuck with us for almost 45 minutes! Photo: Jared Kelly.

Take an ocean safari and bag a look at one of the seven species known to frequent Hawaii waters. The animals range in size from the 50-ton Sperm Whales to smaller Pygmy Killer and False Killer Whales. You might come across a pod of Pilot, Beaked and Melon-headed whales. Each species is distinguished by a unique set of characteristics but all are marine mammals, which have lungs instead of gills and hair instead of scales and nurse their young.

Whales can’t breathe through their mouths. They breathe through a blowhole located on the top of their head and they hear through holes behind their eyes. Whales do not technically spout water. Actually they are letting out air from their lungs. Of the some 80 known species of whales, Sperm Whales have the largest brain. In fact, a Sperm’s 20-pound brain is the largest on the planet.

Friendly Creatures

A pilot whale encounter while diving off of Kona, Hawaii. Photo: Brian Brake.

Some of these resident whales are relatively friendly creatures, so they are not timid about approaching boats and will often go out of their way to interact with humans.

Get Up Close

A pilot whale sighting while on a boat cruise off of Kona, Hawaii. Photo: Adam.

Kona whale watching is great all year long because the water is usually calm, and the ocean gets very deep right offshore, so access to the whales may take only minutes. If you are here in the winter, there are many whale watch cruises available during humpback season, offering a wide range of boats, activities, education and amenities. Many have a hydrophone on board, which is dropped under water when the whales are near, allowing you to hear the haunting humpback vocalizations.

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