If you’re hoping to go whale watching in Hawaii, you’ll probably need to join a tour to see them up close. Scroll to find out the best whale watching tours on Kauai.
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The Best Whale Watching Tours on Kauai
Kauai is a Hawaiian island that lies northwest of Oahu. The “Garden Isle” is home to Waimea Canyon State Park, volcanic mountain peaks, and beautiful waterfalls.
Travelers who want a different Hawaiian experience than what they’d find on Oahu or Maui will love the geography on this island.
The island of Kauai is filled with fun things to do. Whether you want to explore the natural wonders on land or venture out into the sea, you can squeeze exciting activities into any trip itinerary.
While Kauai’s water activities aren’t as popular as its attractions on land, this is a great spot to go whale watching in Hawaii.
From December through May, you can find humpback whales on Kauai’s shoreline, and a charter boat tour can help you see them.
These whale watching tours will bring you face-to-face with the majestic creatures. You may even learn something about the whales, too!
Don’t have time to read a bunch of Hawaii blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Kauai.
Popular Kauai Tours/Activities
- Na Pali Coast Snorkeling Tour (this one also goes to the forbidden island of Ni’ihau)
- Kauai Helicopter Tour (this is the BEST way to see waterfalls on Kauai)
- ATV Tour to a Private Waterfall (this is a romantic adventure that feels like a secret getaway)
- Mountain Tubing (this is a low-key adventure down an old sugar cane canal)
- Luau Kalamaku (you can do a little train ride and feed farm animals before the luau)
- Book a Photo Shoot (this is a Hawaii souvenir you’ll treasure forever)
Favorite Kauai Resorts/Hotels
- Grand Hyatt Kauai (this Poipu resort has a luxurious pool area, romantic restaurants, and a stunning ocean view)
- Koloa Landing Resort (this is a luxury resort with an amazing pool area and truly spacious rooms)
- Royal Sonesta Kauai (we LOVE the pool here because it’s the largest one in Hawaii)
Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Kauai Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.
Kauai Whale Watching FAQs:
The humpback whales from the North Pacific are the 5th largest species of whale in the world.
Newborns weigh about 2000 lbs and the grown whales can weigh between 50000 and 80000 lbs.
The whales travel to the oceans of Hawaii for the following reasons, to breed, to give birth, and to raise their calves. Whales have an 11 to 12-month gestational period, so the calves are conceived and birthed in Hawaii.
While Humpback Whales are the most popular whales to see in Hawaii, visitors can sometimes also see Sperm Whales, Pygmy Whales, and sometimes Orcas.
Plus, visitors also can see dolphins like Rough-Toothed Dolphins, Pilot Whales, Spinner Dolphins, and Bottlenose Dolphins.
Yes, if you aren’t sure you want to do a full whale watching tour on Kauai, there are a few places to see whales on the coast.
Poipu Beach on the South Shore is one of the most popular beaches for whale watching. On the North Shore, head to Kilauea Lighthouse.
Or you might be able to see whales while hiking the iconic Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast. However, pay close attention to any trail closures or flood warnings during the winter.
The whales have their annual winter migration roughly between November and March through the North Pacific Ocean.
But, if seeing whales is high on your bucket list, plan your trip for January or February for your best opportunity, as that is peak season.
Maui is definitely the island to visit if the main point of your trip is to go whale watching in Hawaii. It’s one of the best in the world, especially for spotting humpback whales.
You’ll find a ton of Maui whale watching tours to choose from. But, Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island are also great options for whale watching in Hawaii.
Find out more about whale watching on Maui
Tips for your Kauai Whale Watching Experience
Whales can be seen from the shore, but it would be better to see them on a boat.
Not only will you get an amazing view, but you’ll be educated about these beautiful creatures by the naturalists that are on board.
Booking a whale-watching tour early in the day is your best bet. However, each day is different and it’s mainly dependent on the weather.
The next thing you would need to focus on is getting the right boat. Inflatable rafts are fast and can offer you a thrilling ride, but it isn’t safe for young children or people with back problems.
You’ll also need to keep your head on a swivel because the whales won’t just pop up in front of the vessel, they often pop up behind as well. So using the boat as a clock is advised by captains.
If you want to avoid getting seasick and nauseous, you should stay above the deck and keep looking out at the horizon. You can take medication for nausea and avoid looking down. Find the best prices here.
You should also avoid small and enclosed spaces during your whale-watching boat tour.
When you look out at the water to see a humpback whale, just remember to listen. You don’t always see the humpback whales first, but you hear them as the air goes out of their blowholes and creates a loud sound.
When a humpback whale flukes and you see its tail, it means that it’ll go underwater. Adult humpback whales can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes.
So, going somewhere else to look for the humpbacks would be a better idea than to wait for them to come back up to breathe.
Best Kauai Whale Watching Tours
HOLO HOLO CHARTERS
Niihau is a forbidden island in Hawaii for a good reason: the island is pristine, and restricting visitors keeps endangered species alive. Its only inhabitants are relatives of the owners and about 130 Native Hawaiians.
During whale season, you can easily see some during this tour.
While Holo Holo’s tour is expensive, it offers far more than just whale watching. It offers a chance to see an island that most people haven’t even heard of, and snorkeling lets you see incredible marine life.
If you aren’t interested in snorkeling, Holo Holo offers a sunset whale watching tour that doesn’t include this activity.
While the Napali & Niihau Boat Tour doesn’t outright restrict certain people with physical disabilities, Holo Holo Charters reminds passengers to take precautions when choosing their tours. The water conditions can get rocky and unsafe for certain people.
Find out more about Holo Holo Charters
KAUAI SEA TOURS
Kauai Sea Tours has a few whale-watching options. On the Lucky Lady Whale Cocktail Cruise, enjoy an open bar and appetizers on a cruise with a hydrophone. This nifty device lets you hear the whales.
Get a great view of the sea giants from the upper deck on this 2-hour excursion. You’re also likely to see some turtles and dolphins. The restroom access on this tour makes this a great choice for families since not all tours have that amenity.
You can also take a raft tour to see the whales with a package that includes snorkeling. Despite being in a raft, you’ll still have access to snacks and water, as well as a hydrophone for when you spot the whales.
While Kauai Sea Tours aren’t all dedicated to whale watching, they assure their customers that during humpback season, there’s a good chance you’ll see some whales on any tour you take.
Many charter companies won’t allow young children on their excursions, but the Lucky Lady Whale Cocktail Cruise lets children as young as 3 years old onto the catamaran.
Get your discounted Kauai Sea Tours tickets here!
This tour company offers different waterfront experiences, and some are centered around whale watching.
On the Poipu Sunset Tour, you can relax with appetizers and cocktails as you watch for humpback whales. You’ll be treated to live Hawaiian music, shaded cabins, and restrooms on board.
The 2-hour tour brings you towards Maha’ulepu and Kipu Kai, two islands that are worth photographing with or without the whales.
For a more whale-oriented experience, try Captain Andy’s Raft Whale Watch. You’ll spend 2 hours in a custom 24’ raft that lets you get up close and personal to Hawaii’s gentle giants.
The tour will bring you through the southwest coast of Kauai, where thousands of whales migrate each winter from Alaska. Wear your swimsuit – you’re bound to get wet!
Rafts are a bouncy and unpredictable way to sightsee. For that reason, Captain Andy’s does not allow pregnant women to book this trip. The ride is physically demanding, and they can’t make special accommodations for people with back and neck issues, surgeries, or young kids.
Before booking a raft tour, consider how well you can handle the unsteady water.
Get your Captain Andy’s tickets
BLUE DOLPHIN CHARTERS
Blue Dolphin Charters offers a Poipu Whale Watching Tour on a 65’ catamaran. From November through March, you can book this tour to see the whales, drink unlimited Mai Tais and beer, and look for other wildlife. The guides will provide you with hydrophones, too!
On your way back to the port, enjoy a deli buffet with unlimited drinks. Between snorkeling, scuba diving, and sightseeing from the charter all day, you’ll have plenty of chances to see dolphins and whales.
Blue Dolphin Charters requires that its passengers be able to cross the boarding ramp without assistance. You’ll need to be in generally good physical health no injuries, surgeries, or pregnancies to enjoy this excursion.
SELF-GUIDED WHALE WATCHING TOUR
Another way to see whales on Kauai is to take a self-guided tour. Whenever you rent a kayak, raft, or boat in Kauai’s waters, you’ll have a chance to see humpback whales during the winter months.
For the best viewing spots, check out Poipu Beach, Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, and Lumahai Beach.
Sometimes, you can find unique excursions on AirBnB Experiences, though there aren’t many on the site for whale watching yet. The Experiences section is new to Airbnb, so check back periodically to see if any get added!
No matter which company you choose for your whale watching tour, you’ll likely get to see some whales. Since whale sightings are common but not guaranteed, it’s best to go on these tours hoping to see other sea life, too.