Kohola (humpback whales) are one of the larger species of baleen whales, with adult males ranging between 40 and 52 feet and weighing up to 45 tons. Despite their size, humpback whales are surprisingly graceful acrobats.
Just as our idyllic weather beckons to tourists around the world, the warm shallow waters (less than 600 feet) surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population returns to Hawaii each year to breed, calve and nurse their young in our warm waters. They race over 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii in less than two months, then stay for a lengthy vacation, frolicking off our shores and entertaining spectators from December through May. The peak of whale watching season is typically in February and March.
In Hawaii, the return of the kohola is considered more of a homecoming than a visit. Humpback calves are born in Hawaiian waters, making them “kamaaina” or native born. Some Native Hawaiians also believe the kohola are aumakua (family guardians), and so these gentle giants are treated with great respect.