Best Places to Whale Watch from Shore on the Big Island of Hawaii: Discover Top Spots

Imagine standing on the rugged coastline of the Big Island, eyes scanning the horizon, when suddenly, a majestic humpback whale breaches, its massive body momentarily suspended in the Hawaiian sun. Whale watching from shore on the Big Island isn’t just possible; it’s an unforgettable experience that you’ll treasure forever.

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You don’t need to be on a boat to get up close and personal with these gentle giants. The Big Island’s unique geography offers several prime spots where you can spot whales frolicking right from the land. Whether you’re a seasoned whale watcher or a first-timer, these shore-based vantage points can provide you with a spectacular show.

Popular Spots for Whale Watching on the Big Island

Your adventure to the Big Island isn’t complete without a trip to some of the most renowned whale-watching locales along the coastline. These spots are cherished by enthusiasts and casual watchers alike. They’re dotted with clear sightlines to the ocean, allowing for unobstructed views of these gentle giants.

Kohala Coast
Imagine yourself standing on the rugged lava rocks of the Kohala Coast as humpback whales breach in the distance. The chances are, you won’t have to imagine for long. This coastline is famous for its whale activity, especially between December and April. The deep waters close to shore make it an ideal place for whales to visit.

  • Anaehoomalu Bay, affectionately known as A-Bay, offers both a picturesque beach and a prime whale-watching spot.
  • The Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site provides historic insight and has an elevated position perfect for spotting marine life.

Kona Coast
South of Kohala, the Kona Coast presents opportunities to see whales with a backdrop of majestic mountains.

  • Magic Sands Beach is not only good for a dip but keep your eyes peeled towards the sea for whales displaying their acrobatic skills.
  • Keauhou Bay is a serene spot that benefits from fewer crowds while offering remarkable sighting opportunities.

On the island’s east side, Hilo’s shores are lusher and rainier, but they’re just as likely to give you that magical whale-watching moment.

  • Richardson Ocean Park gives you a chance not just to spot whales but also to relax by some of the few sandy patches near Hilo.
  • Liliuokalani Gardens, with its expansive views, offers a tranquil setting to watch the ocean for whale spouts and splashes.

Remember to bring your binoculars to these spots for an even closer look at the whales. Each location has its charm and opportunities for sightseeing, so you might want to visit more than one to get the full experience. Keep your camera ready, as you never know when a whale will decide to make a grand appearance.

1. Wailea Bay

As you continue your journey to spot the majestic whales of the Pacific, Wailea Bay, also known as Beach 69 due to its proximity to the 69th mile marker, beckons with its serene charm and less crowded shores. Tucked away on the Kohala Coast, this hidden gem offers a serene whale-watching experience away from the buzz of more frequented sites.

The bay’s crystal-clear waters and picturesque scenery provide the perfect backdrop for glimpses of humpback whales as they breach and play in the warm Hawaiian waters. Between December and April, the bay becomes a natural stage for some of the most spectacular whale performances you’ll ever witness. And the best part? You can enjoy this all from the comfort of the shoreline, surrounded by swaying palm trees and the sound of gentle waves.

Remember to pack your binoculars and camera as you head to Wailea Bay. Although the whales can be seen with the naked eye, these tools will enhance your experience, bringing you closer to these gentle giants. As you settle on the sandy beach, keep your eyes peeled for the whales’ distinctive blow, which can be seen from miles away, or the playful slap of a tail fin against the water’s surface.

The bay’s natural geography tends to calm the ocean swells, providing a smoother surface that makes it easier to spot the whales without the interference of rough waters. For a truly immersive experience, you might even consider a dip in the waters of Wailea Bay. Snorkeling here not only offers a chance to explore the rich marine life but sometimes the underwater acoustics allow you to hear the hauntingly beautiful songs of the humpback whales.

With your senses attuned to the rhythm of the sea and the sights and sounds of the bay, you’ll find whale watching at Wailea Bay to be a profoundly moving experience. Give yourself ample time to relax and embrace the natural wonder of these magnificent creatures swimming freely in their winter home.

2. Puako Beach

Nestled on the sun-drenched Kohala Coast, Puako Beach is a lesser-known spot that offers tranquil whale-watching opportunities away from the usual crowd. You’ll find yourself surrounded by lava rock shores where you can comfortably set up camp with your trusty binoculars.

Whales are visible from Puako Beach as they migrate through the warm Hawaiian waters, typically from December to April. The shallow waters here are a playground for the majestic humpback whales and their calves, making it an ideal location for shore-based observation.

At Puako Beach, the beauty lies in its simplicity. You’re likely to have a stretch of coast all to yourself – a perfect situation for those who savor quiet moments. Plus, the chance of spotting a breeching whale against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean is nothing short of magical. Keep your eyes peeled for the distinctive spout of water or a flash of a giant tail, sure to send thrills down your spine.

Remember, early mornings or late afternoons are prime times for spotting these gentle giants. These are the moments when the ocean is calm, and the lighting is just right for catching a glimpse of the humpbacks’ impressive displays. Bring a snack, some water, and don’t forget sunscreen—it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re caught up in the spectacle.

For an added adventure, consider a stroll along the beach’s many tide pools. You might discover a variety of marine life that calls these natural aquariums home. And while you’re exploring, listen closely; the songs of whales often carry through the water, a haunting melody that connects you to the depths of the ocean.

Don’t miss out on Puako’s General Store—stop by for local insights and perhaps some post-whale watching treats. The community around Puako is warm and welcoming, just another piece of Hawaii’s enchanting charm.

3. Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site

As you continue your quest for the best shore-based whale-watching spots on the Big Island, don’t overlook the Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. Here, Hawaii’s rich culture intertwines with unparalleled wildlife viewing opportunities. Pu’ukohola Heiau stands as one of the largest restored heiaus (ancient Hawaiian temples) on the island, built by King Kamehameha I—a towering testament to Hawaii’s storied past.

Imagine standing atop the rugged landscape, the Pacific sprawling before you as humpback whales trace the horizon with their majestic spouts. Between December and May, these deep blue waters become the playground for these marine behemoths. You’ll have the chance to witness mothers teaching their calves the art of breaching, all within view of the historic site.

  • Best Viewing Times: Early morning or late afternoon.
  • What to Bring: Binoculars, water, and a spirit for adventure.
  • Facilities: Visitor center and restrooms available.

Wandering through this sacred site, you can’t help but feel a deep connection to the island’s ancestry. Stroll along the interpretive trails and you may be lucky enough to hear the whales’ song mingled with the whisper of the trade winds. It’s a truly unique experience where nature’s spectacle meets historic reverence.

Remember to respect the site and maintain the quiet, as you’re not just a visitor but a part of its continuing history. Every whale breach observed against the backdrop of the heiau is a scene that’s waited centuries to unfold before an audience like yours. And as the sun dips lower, painting the sky in swaths of orange and purple, you’ll understand why Pu’ukohola Heiau holds a special place in the hearts of those who’ve wandered its sacred grounds.

4. Ka’ena Point

Situated on the Big Island’s northernmost tip, Ka’ena Point is another superb spot on your whale-watching adventure. Here, you’re not just another tourist; you’re a spectator to one of nature’s most spectacular performances.

As you set foot on this pristine piece of paradise, you’ll feel the power of the Pacific stretching infinitely before you. The majestic humpback whales, known to locals as na kohola, traverse these waters annually from November to May, so timing your visit in these months maximizes your chances of a glorious sighting.

  • Best Viewing Times: Early morning or late afternoon
  • What to Bring: Binoculars, sun protection, and a sense of wonder
  • Amenities: Limited facilities, so plan accordingly

At Ka’ena Point, the humbling expanse of ocean is your theater and the whales, the stars of the show. Their thrilling breaches and serene tail slaps are visible even from shore, given you’ve packed those trusty binoculars. And don’t forget your camera; the photograph opportunities here are postcard-worthy, with panoramic views and whale aerials melding into a single frame.

The ambience here speaks to the reverence with which Hawaiians treat their natural surroundings. A visit comes with a silent promise to preserve the tranquil environment, protecting the peace for the whales and fellow onlookers alike. You’ll often find that the area is relatively quiet, interrupted only by the splash of a whale or the call of seabirds overhead.

Ka’ena Point the untamed gem that it is comes with a bit of a hike to reach the prime viewing spots. Sturdy shoes and water are a must. The trail rewards you not only with whale sightings but also with breath-taking views of the rugged coastline and achingly beautiful sunsets that dip into the sea.

The community involvement in conservation efforts around Ka’ena Point means you’re part of the mission to safeguard these gentle giants with each respectful step you take on this sacred ground.

5. Kapa’a Beach Park

When you’re on the Big Island, and you’ve checked out the rugged cliffs of Ka’ena Point, your next stop for an exceptional whale-watching experience is Kapa’a Beach Park. Nestled on the Kohala Coast, this hidden gem is less crowded than other popular spots, letting you enjoy a more intimate connection with nature.

Pristine waters and frequent whale sightings define Kapa’a Beach Park during the whale season, which peaks from December to April. It’s a place where the magic of the ocean comes to life – you’ll often see whales breaching just offshore, their majestic tails splashing waves of joy for the lucky onlookers.

But what really sets Kapa’a Beach Park apart is its atmosphere. With lush greenery surrounding the area and a backdrop of distant mountains, it feels like you’ve stepped into a postcard. The park’s facilities, including restrooms and picnic areas, make it comfortable for you to spend hours waiting for that perfect whale breach.

Be sure to bring your binoculars to get an up-close view without disturbing these gentle giants. If you’re patient, you might also spot spinner dolphins and green sea turtles in their natural habitat.

Remember, the key to a memorable whale-watching experience isn’t just spotting these creatures; it’s about immersing yourself in the environment and embracing the calm of Kapa’a Beach Park. Here, the spirit of aloha is strong, and you’ll feel the warmth and harmony that makes the Hawaiian Islands so special. Take a moment to chat with the locals – their stories and tips can enrich your visit.

For those seeking an educational twist, there are interpretive signs that provide insight into the local marine life and cultural history. Being part of the community that cherishes and protects this part of the island is a fulfilling experience all on its own.


So there you have it—your guide to some of the best spots on the Big Island for shore-based whale watching. Whether you’re setting up camp at Kapa’a Beach Park or exploring other coastal gems, you’re in for a treat. Remember to pack your binoculars, embrace patience, and let the serene Hawaiian shores bring the majestic whales right into your view. And while you’re there, soaking in the sun and scanning the horizon, don’t forget to appreciate the dolphins, turtles, and rich cultural tapestry that make these locations more than just whale watching spots. They’re gateways to the heart of the island’s marine life and history. Happy whale watching!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the popular spots for whale watching on the Big Island?

Popular whale watching spots on the Big Island include Puako Beach, the Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Ka’ena Point, and Kapa’a Beach Park. Each offers unique views and experiences.

What makes Kapa’a Beach Park special for whale watching?

Kapa’a Beach Park is special due to its intimate setting, less crowded environment, and stunning backdrop of lush greenery and mountains. It’s ideal for a tranquil whale watching experience.

What else can visitors see at Kapa’a Beach Park besides whales?

Visitors at Kapa’a Beach Park may also spot spinner dolphins, green sea turtles, and a variety of marine life, all within their natural habitat.

Should visitors bring any particular equipment to Kapa’a Beach Park?

Yes, visitors should bring binoculars to enhance their whale watching experience and to observe the marine life from a respectful distance.

How does Kapa’a Beach Park educate its visitors?

Kapa’a Beach Park has interpretive signs that provide information about the local marine life and cultural history. Interaction with the local community can also offer enriching experiences.

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