USA Today When can you see humpback whales in Hawaii? Tips for a great, sustainable excursion

Whale watching season in Oahu?

Hawaii humpback whale season (when we are seeing them daily) is mid December-ish through mid April-ish. The first seasonal humpback whale sightings have been in early October. We’ve seen them (very sporadically) as late as June. In 2024, a humpback whale was sighted on our west Oahu coast (near Ko Olina) in July! Do know that  toothed whale season with multiple species including  (sperm whales) is all year long.

Spring and fall season seem to be gathering times for our favorite sightings and otherwise more elusive whales – the Hawaiian false killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, and pygmy killer whales. Summer months are even calmer, with opportune weather to spot those lesser-known whales, sometimes even sperm whales! Also great for pelagic birding, and dolphin excursions in our blue water adventures. And who doesn’t want to see the not-a-whale whale shark? Summer historically is the best time (clearest water) for snorkeling coral reefs with Oahu’s sea turtles and endemic fish.

With up to 30 whale and dolphin species found in Hawaii, whale season and dolphin watching never stops.Bucket-list” satisfying – we’re Fodor’s choice for Oahu whale watching, CBS’s “Top Five American Whale Watching Tours” and USA Todays’ pick for “a sustainable tour company that respects the animals and the laws”. Yay us! Three+ hour long charters gives us time for all.

The best time of day to see whales and dolphins?

whale breach whale season OahuThe ‘edges’ are always best for wildlife, be it the edge of the meadow or the edge of the day. Early mornings are the best time for dolphins in Hawaii. Not only due to the ‘edge’ but that mornings are normally the calmest time of day. Dolphins, birds, whales, whale sharks etc. are all easiest to see on the blank background of a calm sea. As the day progresses and the island heats up, so does the wind. A blessing on hot days, but makes for choppy water on winter days.

Like land mammals, humpback whales can be predictably less active during midday siesta hours. For whales, it may not be that it is hot around noon, as much as that the sun’s UV rays are intense for this Alaskan visitor. However, catch humpbacks on the edge of napping and lots of action can be occurring! Here on west side of Oahu, we tend to have a higher ration of juvenile whales who seem to have endless exuberant energy. There seems to always be a couple teenagers who aren’t napping midday.

Frequency of whale sightingsHow often are Hawaii’s “Other Whales” seen?

This chart is a decent indicator of how often seasonal sightings occur of Hawaii’s 19 species of toothed dolphins and whales. However, sadly, in recent years the Hawaiian false killer whale is seen less often. And, even so the pygmy killer whales are charted as “occasional”, we (on our tours anyhow) see them quite frequently over the summer months! More often then the marked as “occasional” sperm whale.

The Risso’s, striped and white-sided dolphins are marked ‘rare’, but we do see them as well on our 6 hour wildlife photo tours as we venture into deeper water.