Every year, Kaua‘i is graced by the presence of one of the ocean’s most majestic beings, the Hawaiian humpback whale.

These gentle giants journey to Hawai‘i from Alaska each winter, maybe for the same reason many people prefer traveling to the islands during cooler months. While in Alaska, they bulk up on food, then migrate to the warm, tropical waters of Hawai‘i that serve as their breeding ground, sometime between October and April. So if you’re lucky enough to visit Kaua‘i during this time, you can experience the wonder of these creatures, as well as their little ones as they splash their “tiny” fins in the water and breach alongside their mothers.

Some Hawaiian families consider the Hawaiian humpback whale or koholā an ‘aumakua (family god), even though there isn’t much evidence of their presence in historic records.

No doubt, however, they are celebrated today, and Kaua‘i is one of the most idyllic islands to understand why. You can easily watch the graceful water acrobatics of koholā from land at various vantage points around the island.

Locations for Whale Watching on Kauai

One treasured locale is the Kīlauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge on the North Shore. The sea stretches for miles in front of you on this craggy peninsula where there’s a good chance you’ll see a whale or two. Plus, you can enjoy watching other native species like seabirds as they dance above your head.

Another notable place to delight in the beauty of whales is Keālia Beach. Pods of koholā are often seen cruising by this popular spot and can also be witnessed from other nearby points along the Kapa‘a bike path.

The South Shore has some great viewpoints as well; virtually anywhere along the coast, especially on days when the ocean is calm.

Whale Watching on Tours

Boat tours will get you even closer to these spectacular beings—some of which are specifically designed for whale watching. But note that even though koholā were recently removed from the endangered species list due to population numbers steadily increasing in recent years, they are still protected and a respectful distance is required by law.

Those fortuitous enough to escape the cold and travel to Kaua‘i during the winter season are not only in for a warm weather treat but also the possibility of incredible encounters with one of Hawai‘i’s most treasured creatures.