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Kauai Humpback Whale Watching Pictures & Info

“Experience the majestic humpback whales acrobatic displays aboard Holo Holo!”

Kauai whale watching tours

Koholã, Hawaiian for Humpback Whales, are seen regularly on our Kauai and Niihau boat tours from December through April, although occasional sightings occur from mid-October through early June. Experience incredible acrobatic displays by these gentle giants who migrate over 3,000 miles to visit Kauai’s warm waters to breed, calve and nurse their young. Humpback whales are inquisitive and will often approach boats, giving us a spectacular demonstration of some of their common behavior including: breaching, blows, head rises, and tail slaps. Holo Holo Charters shows respect while Kauai whale watching for these magnificent creatures by voluntarily participating in the NOAA sponsored Dolphin Smart program which ensures safe and responsible viewing of marine life.

*During peak season (Dec-Apr), regular surface activity is almost a guarantee to be seen when on any of our daily boat tours.

A member of the baleen whale suborder, the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is large, even among whales: adults range between 12–16 meters (40–50 feet) long and weigh approximately 40,000 kilograms (44 tons). It is a favorite among whale watchers for its impressive size, acrobatic and spectacular breaching behavior (sometimes leaping completely out of the water), large fluke and unusually long pectoral (front) fins which are proportionally the longest fins of any cetacean.


Humpback Whales are identified by their stocky bodies with obvious humps and black dorsal coloring. The long black and white tail fluke has a wavy trailing edge and can be up to a third of body length. The pectoral fins have unique patterns, which enable individual whales to be recognized. When exhaling through their blowholes, Humpbacks have a distinctive 3 meter (10 ft) heart-shaped to bushy blow.


The species feeds only in summer and lives off fat reserves during winter. It is an energetic feeder, taking krill and small schooling fish, such as herring, capelin and sand lance. It will hunt fish by direct attack or by stunning them by hitting the water with its large flippers or flukes.

Its most inventive feeding technique is called bubble net fishing. A group of whales will blow bubbles while swimming to create a visual barrier against fish, while one or more whales in the group make vocalizations that drive the fish against the wall. The bubble wall is then closed, encircling the fish and confining them to an ever-tighter area. The whales then suddenly swim upwards and through the bubble net, mouths agape, swallowing thousands of fish in one gulp. This technique can involve a ring of bubbles up to 30 meters (100 feet) in diameter and the cooperation of a dozen animals at once. It is perhaps the most spectacular act of cooperation among marine mammals.

Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Due to over-hunting, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a whaling moratorium was introduced in 1966. Once hunted to the brink of extinction the humpback whale population has since partially recovered with at least 80,000 humpback whales worldwide. Entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution remain concerns.