Whale swimming in the blue waters of Hawaii, seen during a whale watching tour.

5 Best Whale Watching in Kona For Nature Enthusiasts

Are you going to Kona and need help deciding which whale watching tour to take? Look no further – this blog post is the perfect resource for you.

We have compiled a list of the best whale watching tours in Kona based on cost, customer reviews, and our personal experience.

You will find plenty of boat tours around Kona that promise an unforgettable experience, but few can match up to the quality of the tours we have selected. These tours offer a unique and memorable experience that will stay with you long after your trip.

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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 Kona below to make things easy for you.

Whale Watching With Hang Loose Boat Tours

Top-rated tour in Kona, offering a thrilling three-hour journey aboard a modern luxury catamaran. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and dedicated to providing excellent customer service throughout your adventure.

Note: Towards the bottom of this article, you will find information about the best places to see whales on Kona without a tour and tips to help you make the most of your whale watching experience.

(1) Whale Watching With Hang Loose Boat Tours

Duration: 3 Hours (Approximately) 

Departure: 74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Prepare for an unparalleled whale watching experience with Hang Loose Boat Tours in Kona. This tour is one of the top things to do on the Big Island, so add it to your list.

The tour will take you on a three-hour whale watching journey aboard their modern 24-passenger luxury catamaran, designed for optimal comfort and stability on the open ocean. 

Guests will witness the spectacular humpback whales as they arrive in the Hawaiian Islands after a 3,000-mile journey to breed, calve, and nurse their young ones from Alaska. 

With underwater hydrophones on board, you can even listen to the mesmerizing songs of the humpback whales as they roam their natural habitat. 

Keep an eye out for delightful spinner dolphins as a bonus. What better way to enjoy your vacation than sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the breathtaking views of the beautiful Island of Hawaii while sipping on drinks as part of the adventure? 

10/10 experience. We were lucky to see whales, dolphins, manta rays, and a sea turtle. Aiden and the whole crew were amazing! So welcoming and friendly.


Whale swimming in the ocean in Hawaii doing a flip, seen during a whale watching tour.

(2) Zodiac Raft Whale Watching Tour

Duration: 3 Hours (Approximately) 

Departure: 74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy #16, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Captain Zodiac is another reputable tour company on the Big Island offering whale watching tours. During the tour, guests will experience humpback whales up close on their 24-foot zodiac boat. 

Your knowledgeable captain will share interesting facts about the whales while making sure to follow viewing rules. You can listen to the beautiful whale songs through underwater microphones, adding to the magic of the trip. 

With a small group of 16 passengers, you’ll have a front-row view to see these majestic creatures just a few feet above the water. Keep an eye out for playful dolphins and other marine life, and if time permits, guests will explore the fascinating sea caves, lava tubes, and rugged coastline. 

This was the best whale watching excursion we have ever been on. Captain Rick and Brenna from Captain Zodiac were excellent. They both were very knowledgeable and personable and made it a great experience from start to finish. We were lucky enough to see so many whales on our trip and even saw a few breaches.


A whales tale in the ocean in Hawaii, seen during a whale watching boat tour.

(3) Whale Watch Excursion With Body Glove Cruises

Duration: 2.5 Hours (Approximately) 

Departure: 75-5629 Kuakini Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

The Whale Watching Excursion With Body Glove Cruises is an extraordinary two-and-a-half-hour whale-watching tour offering you a chance to witness these majestic creatures up close. 

During the tour, you’ll also listen to the melodious humpback whales through the underwater hydrophone, making this encounter even more magical. 

Keep your eyes peeled for a delightful array of marine life, including spinner dolphins, pilot and sperm whales, manta rays, sea turtles, and more, creating a truly unforgettable Hawaiian adventure. 

Plus, with guaranteed sightings, you can enjoy peace of mind, and in the unlikely event of missing a sighting, you’ll have the opportunity to come back for another tour absolutely free (based on availability)

I loved seeing the whale’s tail come out of the water, and I loved the spinner dolphins. This cruise was very relaxing, and the crew was helpful and attentive.


Whale swimming in the ocean doing a flip in the ocean in Hawaii.

(4) Hawaii Nautical Whale Watching Tour

Duration: 1.5 Hours (Approximately) 

Departure: 69-1081 Ku’uali’i Pl, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738

Hawaii Nautical is one of our favorite tour companies in Hawaii. We have been on multiple tours with them, including a whale watching tour on Oahu and a snorkeling tour in Waikiki.

Their Kona whale-watching tour is no different – it’s simply magnificent! This 1.5-hour cruise will take you on an unforgettable journey to witness these beautiful creatures from the comfort of their state-of-the-art power catamarans while enjoying non-alcoholic drinks on board for a wonderful experience.

With their “Whales Guaranteed” policy, rest assured that if you don’t spot whales on your specific whale watching tour, you can return one more time for free on a trip of equal or lesser value (rerides only, no refunds). 

Very informative and friendly crew focused on their passengers getting a great view of the local whales. They followed the spouts and kept their distance from the whales, but close enough for a great show. On several occasions, the whales approached the boat giving us some beautiful encounters and special memories.


Side Note: Going to the Big Island and need recommendations on what to do? Here are some recommendations: Top Luaus in Hawaii and Mahai’ula Beach.

Fish swimming on top of the water in the ocean in Hawaii with perfect blue waters.

(5) Humpback Whale Watch in Kona

Duration: 2.5 Hours (Approximately) 

Departure: 787100 Kaleiopapa St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

The Humpback Whale Watch With Dolphin Discoveries is a 2.5-hour Whale Watch Adventure specially designed to spot the seasonal humpback whales (Dec-March) and other year-round species along the Kona coastline, such as pilot whales, beaked whales, and melon-headed whales. 

Their primary focus is locating these magnificent mammals and spending quality time observing, learning, photographing, and even listening to their song and vocalizations with their underwater hydrophone system.

Outstanding trip for the family. It was my family and one couple on the boat. Perfect outing. We saw whales while learning about the local history.


Dolphins swimming in the ocean in perfect blue waters in Hawaii.

When is Whale Watching Season in Hawaii

The best time to go is during peak season, from mid-January through March, when they are most active. However, you can still see whales in December and early January, and sometimes even as late as April if you are lucky.

How to See Humpback Whales From Shore in Kona

While a tour is recommended to increase your chances of seeing whales, you can still spot them from the land if you are lucky.

The best places to see humpback whales in Kona from the shore are North Kona, Kohala, North Kohala, or the Hilo Coasts. Specifically, many people have reported seeing whales before at Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Kapa’a Beach Park, and Lapakahi State Historical Park.

Side note: Going to The Big Island and need recommendations on where to get malasadas? Our review has a list of the top places to get malasadas on The Big Island.

Whale Watching Tips

Whale watching can be an incredible and memorable experience. After spending countless hours whale watching in Hawaii over the years, here are some tips for getting the most out of your experience:

Choose the right season: As mentioned before, the best time to go whale watching in Kona is from mid-January through March.

Go with reputable tour operators: Just like snorkeling with manta rays, make sure to opt for whale watching tours with reputable and experienced operators who prioritize the safety and well-being of the whales. Professional guides can provide valuable insights and ensure responsible wildlife viewing.

Go early in the morning if possible: While whales are active throughout the day, we recommend going early as the ocean is much calmer in the mornings compared to the afternoons, making the ocean more conducive for whale watching. Also, morning tours tend to be less crowded. 

Be patient: Whales are wild animals, and they don’t always appear when you expect them to, so it’s important to be patient. Keep your eyes open and trust that your guide will take you to the best spots. 

Avoid feeding wildlife: Never feed whales or any other marine animals. Feeding them can disrupt their natural behaviors and be harmful to their health.

Educate yourself: Learn about the whales you may encounter, their behaviors, and the importance of conservation efforts to protect their habitats.

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 say the tour started fun, but the last hour was brutal.

Dress appropriately: Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. A light jacket or sweater is also good, as the ocean breeze can be chilly. I usually bring a raincoat on the tour, which has saved me multiple times.

Me feeling sick on a Whale watching boat tour in Hawaii after getting motion sickness.
This was me during a tour in Kauai after the motion sickness kicked in.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Whales Come to Hawaii

Humpback whales come to Hawaii to mate, give birth and raise their young. Hawaii’s warm and protected waters provide an ideal environment for these crucial life processes. 

Which Hawaiian Island is the Best for Whale Watching?

Maui is often considered the best Hawaiian island for whale watching. This is because Maui usually has greater numbers of whales as they migrate through its waters, making sightings more consistent than on any other island. 

Also, Maui is often considered to have a slightly longer whale watching season, with some tours operating from October to May.

Related: Big Island vs. Maui: Which One to Choose?

Is Whale Watching Better in Maui or Kona?

As mentioned above, Maui is considered the best Hawaiian island for whale watching. However, Kona also provides a great experience.

Both islands offer excellent opportunities for whale watching, and many of the same species can be seen in both places.

Is Kona Good for Whale Watching?

Yes, Kona is also a fantastic location for whale watching in Hawaii. As mentioned, the best places to spot Humpback whales on The Big Island from the shore are at The North Kona, Kohala, North Kohala, or the Hilo Coasts. 

These areas are where tour companies on The Big Island will take you to spot whales. 

Which is Better: Whale Watch in the Morning or Afternoon on the Big Island, Hawaii?

While whales are active throughout the day, we recommend going early as the ocean is much calmer in the mornings than afternoons.

Also, morning tours are less crowded, so this is a better option if you prefer to avoid crowds. That said, we have seen whales in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings.

How Close Can You Get to a Humpback Whale?

Federal law requires that tour operators maintain a distance of at least 100 yards from the whales. This is to protect them from any potential harm. 

This is why choosing a reputable and experienced tour operator is important – they prioritize the whale’s safety and respect their environment. 

What Other Marine Life Can You See on a Kona Whale Watching Tour?

In addition to seeing whales, you may spot other marine life, including dolphins, turtles, manta rays, and spinner sharks. 

Depending on the season and luck, you may spot some of Hawaii’s more exotic marine life, such as the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. 

Final thoughts 

Whale watching in Hawaii is an incredible experience, and if done responsibly can be enjoyed for many generations to come. 

We hope this post has given you some helpful information on whale watching tours in Kona. 

Whether you’re a first-time whale watcher or an experienced veteran, we hope this post has inspired you to go out and explore the majestic marine life.

Happy Whale Watching!