Are you planning a trip to Kauai? Want to experience the best whale watching on the island but don’t know which tour to choose?
With so many choices, picking the perfect whale watching tour can be difficult.
Look no further – we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of Kauai’s best whale watching tours. Here, you’ll find all the information you’ll need to make an informed decision about your excursion. Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
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Don’t have time to read about all the tours on this list? No worries—we have spotlighted the best whale watching tour in Kauai below to make things easy for you.
Prepare for a thrilling adventure that combines whale watching and snorkeling. Guests get to observe some of Hawaii’s most majestic creatures, explore its perfect blue waters, and view its diverse marine life. The 50-foot long, 28-foot wide motorized sailing catamaran provides stability and comfort.
Why should you trust us? We’ve spent several hours researching and gathering consumer feedback about the best things to do on Kauai. We researched the best whale watching tours in Kauai, but most importantly, we’ve tested most of the tours ourselves.
Note: Towards the bottom of this article, you will find information about the best places to see whales on Kauai without a tour and some tips to help you make the most of your whale watching experience.
(1) Na Pali Coast Kauai Snorkel and Sail Tour
⭐ RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars | View on: Viator.com | Operated by: Holo Holo Charters
Duration: 5 Hours (Approximately)
What’s Included: Breakfast, lunch, beverages, and snorkel gear
Departure: 4353 Waialo Rd #5a, Eleele, HI 96705
Want to kill two birds with one stone? Na Pali Coast Kauai Snorkel and Sail is the perfect tour for those looking to go whale watching and snorkeling in Kauai.
Not only will you get the chance to observe some of Hawaii’s most majestic creatures, but you’ll also be able to explore its perfect blue waters and view its brilliant marine life.
Guests will set sail on their 50-foot long, 28-foot wide motorized sailing catamaran called Leila, built on Kauai in the 1990s.
The catamaran is designed for stability and comfort, with plenty of room to spread out and two bathrooms.
During the tour, the captain will narrate the trip with authentic stories and facts about Kauai’s history and geology.
On the way to the Na Pali Coast and back, you’ll have the chance to observe humpback whales and dolphins in their natural habitat.
The tour passes Polihale Beach and enters the heart of the Napali Coast Hawaii State Wilderness Area, where passengers can see stunning views of the 4,000-foot cliffs, dozens of waterfalls, pristine beaches, sea caves, and sea arches.
The crew will choose a spot for snorkeling, and those who don’t feel like snorkeling can relax on the catamaran. Who knows, you might even see some whales!
Note: Humpback whales are seen in Hawaii between December and April, which is why we chose to do this tour in January. Although the ocean conditions are typically better for snorkeling in the summer months, we still enjoyed the snorkeling portion.
We had a great trip. The coast was beautiful, and the crew did a fantastic job! We saw some dolphins and whales.
— Tamara, TOUR REVIEW
⭐ RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars | View on: Viator.com | Operated by: Captain J’s Kauai Offshore Adventures
Duration: 5 hours (Approximately)
What’s Included: Breakfast, lunch, snacks, beverages, snorkeling equipment
Departure: 4353 Waialo Rd #4B, Eleele, HI 96705
Captain J’s Na Pali Coast Super Raft Adventure offers an exhilarating whale watching tour along the Na Pali Coast, with opportunities to explore caves and waterfalls.
While this tour is mainly known as a snorkel tour in the summer, they generally cannot offer snorkeling in the winter months (December-March) due to seasonal swells.
The captain will maximize your experience with additional whale watching opportunities or a trip to Ke’e Beach during winter.
The tour includes views of the Kalalau Cathedrals, Hawaiian spinner dolphins, humpback whales, and the magnificent Na Pali Cliffs.
This tour is an excellent choice for those looking to take in the beauty of Kauai and its wildlife. Guides will narrate the tour with Hawaiian folklore and explain the history of Kauai.
The Voyager I has plenty of room for everyone to spread out and enjoy all the beauty without feeling crowded – perfect for couples or larger groups.
This is a breathtaking experience with all you see on this tour. We saw whales, dolphins, and numerous fish. The waters are clear blue and the Napali Coast, the caves….wow! The vessel operator and crew were terrific and very friendly. This is a must-see do tour.
— Cynthia, TOUR REVIEW
⭐ RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars | View on: Viator.com | Operated by: Holo Holo Charters
Duration: 7 hours (Approximately)
What’s Included: Breakfast, lunch, snacks, beverages, snorkeling equipment
Departure: 4353 Waialo Rd #5a, Eleele, HI 96705
Looking for another snorkeling tour with whale watching opportunities? Check out Holo Holo Charters’ Ni’ihau and Na Pali Coast Snorkel Boat Tour.
This 7-hour Pacific Ocean experience combines Kauai’s iconic Napali Coast boat tour with an offshore excursion to Lehua Crater Hawaii State Wildlife Sanctuary and the neighboring “Forbidden Island” of Niihau.
Guests will cruise along Kauai’s western side towards the Napali Coast, where you can witness the sea cliffs, caves, arches, emerald valleys, waterfalls, beaches, rainbows, and other marine wildlife like green sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, spinner dolphins, and humpback whales (December-April).
After exploring the Napali Coast, the tour points west and heads 17 miles offshore towards Lehua Crater, where you can check out the thousands of pelagic seabirds and a “keyhole” rock formation.
After sightseeing, the tour anchors between Lehua Crater and the “Forbidden Island” of Niihau, where you can snorkel, have lunch, and maybe even see some humpback whales.
We have been on multiple boat tours with Holo Holo Charters and never leave disappointed. The whale watching is fantastic—the crew goes out of their way to make sure everyone has an enjoyable ride and leaves with plenty of memories.
Our favorite part about this tour, besides the whales, is the gorgeous views you’ll get of the Napali Coast.
The crew seemed genuinely interested in making every experience as memorable as possible. We were incredibly well taken care of, which made our multiple sightings of jumping whales and huge pods of dolphins all the more breathtaking.
— Cynthia, TOUR REVIEW
⭐ RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars | View on: Viator.com | Operated by: Kauai Sea Tours
Duration: 2 hours (Approximately)
What’s Included: Snacks, beverages, mai tais, beer (for adults 21+)
Departure: 4353 Waialo Rd #2B, Eleele, HI 96705
For those of you looking for a much cheaper option and a whale watching tour only, the ‘IMILOA Express Whale Watch Cocktail Tour is a great choice.
This popular tour offers you the chance to see baby whales and adult humpback whales breaching the water.
Participants of all ages can enjoy the experience on an express catamaran with comfortable seats and a shaded cabin.
We did this tour in February and had a fantastic time! The guides were knowledgeable and friendly, the scenery was beautiful, and we saw a few whales, many dolphins, and a gorgeous sunset. If you are looking for a sunset tour, they also offer a dinner cruise.
Loved seeing the whales and dolphins. The crew was fantastic, and we had a great time. They knew a lot about the area and where to go.
— Allan, TOUR REVIEW
⭐ RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars | View on: Viator.com | Operated by: Z-Tours
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes (Approximately)
What’s Included: Light snacks, beverages
Location: 3417 Poipu Rd #105, Koloa, HI 96756
Kauai’s Ultimate Whale & Dolphin Zodiac Boat Adventure offers a thrilling and unique way to see the North Pacific’s humpback whales during their annual migration from Alaska to Hawaii.
Guests will traverse up to 30 miles of Kauai’s southern coast on a Zodiac boat, known for its speed and maneuverability, in search of these majestic creatures. While not a leisure cruise, the experience promises to be unforgettable.
This tour only takes up to 14 people at a time, making it a more intimate experience.
The crew is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, which makes the entire experience even more enjoyable.
Captain Steve is very knowledgeable, and Christina is a great 1st mate. Saw lots of whales and learned some Hawaiian history. I recommend it. The ride is not too bumpy, didn’t get wet (2 things I was worried about).
Leslie, TOUR REVIEW
What to Expect on a Whale Watching Tour in Kauai
Booking your whale watching experience in Kauai is an incredible way to explore the island’s most spectacular sights.
These tours offer a lifetime of memories, from majestic humpback whales to dolphins and gorgeous views.
For those that have never been on a whale watching tour before, here is what you can expect:
- Depending on the tour, you will arrive 20-45 minutes before departure for check-in.
- Your guides will then provide a safety briefing and explain the tour.
- You will then board the boat and take off on your adventure. Your guide will navigate, looking for whales and dolphins as navigate the sea. If your group spots a whale or pod of dolphins, they will stop the boat and allow onlookers to observe them in their natural habitat.
- Your guides will do their best to find whales and dolphins, but keep in mind that sightings are not guaranteed.
Kauai Whale Watching Season
The best time for whale watching in Kauai is from December to April, when over 10,000 humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii to mate, rest, and give birth.
The peak season is usually from January to March. During this period, sightings of these majestic creatures are much more common.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Types of Whales are in Hawaii?
Several types of whales can be found in Hawaii’s waters, including:
Humpback whales: Nicknamed the “gentle giants,” humpback whales are Hawaii’s most commonly spotted whales. They can reach up to 52 feet in length and weigh up to 50 tons!
Short-finned pilot whales: These are smaller whales classified under the dolphin family (Delphinidae) that can often be seen swimming in pods and can reach sizes of around 22 feet.
Sperm whales: These are the largest toothed whales in the world, and they are occasionally spotted off the coast of Hawaii. They prefer the deeper waters and can dive to depths of more than 3,000 feet.
False killer whales: Another member of the dolphin family, false killer whales are sometimes seen in Hawaii, however much less common than other species. They are considered an endangered species.
Melon-headed whales: These are another type of dolphin that can occasionally be seen in Hawaii’s waters. They spend most of their time in the deep sea and can dive to depths of 6,000 feet.
Cuvier’s beaked whales: These deep-diving whales are rarely seen near the shore. They inhabit offshore waters and can dive to depths of up to 3,500 feet.
As they spend most of their time in deeper waters, sightings of Cuvier’s beaked whales in Hawaii are rare and usually occur only when they come up to the surface to breathe.
Whale Watching in Kauai From Shore – Which Part is the Best?
Below are the best spots for whale watching from Kauai’s shore:
Poipu Beach: This is a popular beach on the South Shore of Kauai and is a great spot to see humpback whales when you are in Poipu.
Kilauea Lighthouse: This historic lighthouse is located on the North Shore of Kauai and offers stunning ocean views that are great for spotting humpback whales during their migration. If you are in Princeville or Hanalei, this is a great spot to see some whales.
Hanalei Bay: This bay is located on the North Shore of Kauai and is a great spot to see humpbacks If you are in Princeville or Hanalei.
Polihale State Park: This beach is located on the western side of Kauai and offers a more remote location for whale watching. Visitors can often see humpback whales breaching offshore during the winter months.
Kapaa Overlook: This overlook is located on the southern side of Kauai and offers stunning coastline views, perfect for spotting whales during their migration.
Kealia Beach: This beach with calm waters is adjacent to the overlook.
Kalalau Trail/Overlook: This trail is located on the northern side of Kauai and offers beautiful views of the ocean and coastline, perfect for spotting whales. So if you are in Hanalei or Princeville, watch out for whales if you decide to hike the Kalalau Trail.
Note: Whale watching tours often depart from harbors near these locations.
Whale Watching Kuaui Vs. Maui
Kauai and Maui are excellent locations for whale watching, but generally speaking, Maui is known to have the best whale watching in Hawaii. This is the same case if comparing whale watching in Kona or whale watching on Oahu.
This is because Maui often has greater numbers of whales as they migrate through its waters, making sightings more consistent than in Kauai.
Also, Maui is often considered to have a slightly longer whale watching season, with some tours operating from October to May.
Since Kauai is less crowded than Maui, it is often easier to find a spot for whale watching without the crowds.
That said, both islands offer excellent opportunities for whale watching, and many of the same species can be seen in both places.
Tips for Whale Watching in Kauai
After spending countless hours whale watching in Hawaii over the years, here are some tips for getting the most out of your experience:
Motion sickness medication: If you are prone to motion sickness, it’s a good idea to bring medication with you, as the boat ride can be rocky.
Learn from my mistakes; I recently went on a whale watching tour in Kauai and forgot to take/bring my motion sick medication. Let’s just say the tour started fun, but the last hour was brutal.
Don’t be like me! Bring your medication or purchase some when you check in at your tour’s office. Most tour companies will sell some.
Choose the right time: Humpback whales typically visit Hawaii’s waters from November to May, but the peak season is usually from January to March. During this time, you are more likely to see whales.
Be patient: Whale watching can require some patience and waiting. It takes time! Whales are wild animals, and their behavior can be unpredictable, so be prepared to wait and be patient. Our tour guides always reminded us that whale watching is like fishing.
Dress appropriately: Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. A light jacket or sweater is also a good idea, as the ocean breeze can be chilly. I usually bring a raincoat on the tour, which has saved me multiple times.
Bring binoculars: Although whales can sometimes be seen from the shore, having binoculars can enhance your viewing experience. Binoculars can help you see the whales more clearly.
Go on a whale watching tour: Joining a whale watching tour can increase your chances of spotting whales and learning more about these magnificent creatures from experienced guides.
Many tour operators offer catamaran or Zodiac boat tours, which can provide a more up-close and personal experience.
Whale watching is an incredible experience. The sight of these majestic creatures breaching the waters is something you will never forget.
We hope this guide has helped you learn more about whale watching in Kauai and will help you get the most out of your experience.
Whether you go on a boat tour or observe from the shore, we wish you a safe and enjoyable trip!
Happy whale watching!