A whale of a tale off the Na Pali coast.
Cetacean Visitors Provide Show With Amazing Breaches
Every winter they return to Hawaiian waters, first the juveniles and then the adults up to 45 feet in length. The last to come are the pregnant females who will give birth in Hawaiian waters to infant calves weighing about ten tons at birth. The newborn whales are whitish in color, darkening within a few days.
Breaching Whales Land With a Splash!
Humpback whales are a common sight in Hawaiian waters during the winter months. Breaching – or leaping up out of the ocean – is a frequent humpback whale behavior, which makes whale watching around Kauai a thrilling experience.
The infant humpbacks like to swim in their mother’s slip-stream, and soon they too begin practicing their breaches, leaping up from the water and twisting half way around before landing with a splash, just like the adults.
Humpback Whale Migration and Feeding
Humpback whales come to Hawaii from thousands of miles to the north where they spend the summer in Alaskan waters feeding on krill, herring and mackerel.
The whales feed by taking in giant gulps of the fish-filled water and then straining it through plates of baleen that hang from their upper jaws. An adult humpback may consume two tons of food per day and weigh more than forty tons, reaching about forty-five feet in length.
Humpback Whale Watching Tours
The main months for seeing humpback whales around Kauai are from November to May with the peak months being February and March. One of the best ways to ensure that you see humpbacks is to take a Kauai whale watching tour.
If you like to ride in comfort then you can enjoy a whale watching tour on a large, stable catamaran, but if you like a more thrilling (but perhaps bumpy) adventure then go on a small rigid hull raft that can ride the swells and enter into the Na Pali Coast’s sea caves.
Kauai whale watching tours often include snorkeling so you will also be able to enjoy Hawaii’s tropical fish and other marine life. Spinner dolphins often ride in the bow waves of the whale watching boats. The dolphins live up to their name as they leap from the water doing flips and spins.
Close Encounters With Humpback Whales
One of the most captivating experiences you could imagine on a Kauai vacation is when a humpback whale approaches your whale watching boat (motor turned off of course), and swims right up next to you for an amazing wildlife encounter.
This happens quite a bit during the peak whale watching season and is an experience you will never forget. You may get a close up look at the whale’s tubercles, the large bumps on their pectoral fins and rostrum (front part of head).
The tubercles assist the whale’s hydrodynamics as well as sensory abilities. The humpback’s pectoral fins are up to 15 feet long, the largest of any whale.
Knowledgeable guides on whale watching tours provide information about whales and other Kauai marine life as well as seabirds, geologic and natural history, and ancient Hawaiian legends. This is also a great way to see the famous Na Pali Coast, an area frequented by humpbacks.
Viewing Humpback Whales From Land
Humpback whales can also be spotted from shore. One of the best humpback viewing spots on land is the peninsula bluff at the Kilauea Lighthouse National Wildlife Refuge.
The Visitor Center at the Lighthouse loans out binoculars so you can scan the horizon for spouting or breaching whales as well as pods of spinner dolphins and other marine life.