Graceful and gentle giants of the ocean, arching, breaching, and frolicking, Hawaii’s humpback whales take center stage during whale season.

And for those lucky enough to experience this once in a lifetime influx of such extraordinary creatures (these sea “stars” offer performances worthy of Oscars), it is truly a memory to cherish forever.

Annually, during the magical winter months of December thru May, the tropical islands of Hawaii greet new arrivals, but instead of the standard expected “snowbirds” (islanders’ oft-described endearing term for Hawaii’s wintry-month transplants and tourists), we are speaking of an animal of entirely another sort: the North Pacific humpback whales.

Yet just as predictable, and as much of a certainty as the wintry arrival of the snowbirds to Hawaii’s shores, many of the humpbacks will travel great lengths — in some cases, a whopping 4,000 miles (round-trip) — for their annual migrations. A beautiful sight to behold, this nautical voyage to Oahu’s tropical waters attracts the attention of both locals and tourists alike, mesmerized gawkers who gather in awe and appreciation, waiting with abated breath in hopes of catch-ing even a glimpse of the beautiful sea mammals in their natural habitats.

In fact, whale watching is one of Oahu’s main attractions, drawing onlookers from across the world.

If you’re seeking to enjoy an encounter with the species, there are myriad options available. Boat tours and whale watching cruises, for instance, have become increasingly popular, with both commercial and private tour companies offering all-inclusive excursions—available all over the Gathering Isle—to introduce you to these, Hawaii’s most beloved underwater creatures.

The Leeward Coast and western shores of Oahu tend to see the most whale action, but there are more than a healthy smattering of exciting tours that you can participate in island-wide. Among some of the top tour picks are aboard the Star of Honolulu or with Tradewinds Charters (both of which depart from Waikiki), as well as accompanying Dolphin Excursions on their whale watching jaunts from Waianae. And should you find yourself on the island’s idyllic North Shore, a favorite company offering you a “whale” of a good time adventure is North Shore Catamaran Charters.

Hawaii Nautical also offers whale-watching tours, both out of the Leeward Coast and Waikiki.

Now that you are familiar with a few more facts and specifics about Hawaii’s humpback whales, you and your loved ones will be more than prepared for your whale adventure! Just be sure to bring your camera, binoculars, sunscreen!