Whale swimming in the ocean on Oahu

9 Best Whale Watching Tours on Oahu You Need to Try

Hawaii is one of the best places for whale watching. It is also among the most important whale sanctuaries on the planet. The endangered humpback whales travel all the way from Alaska between December and April every year. They come to Hawaii’s warm waters for birthing and nurturing their newborn and young calves.

You can see them up close in an Oahu tour boat, zodiac raft, or a glass bottom boat. Most tourists swear by the Hawaiian whale-watching cruises, where you can learn about the habitat and lifestyle of these magnificent creatures. Oahu whale-watching cruises and tours are family-friendly and an amazing way to get an up-close look at these gentle creatures.

We have curated a list of the nine best whale-watching tours in Oahu. In a hurry? below are our top picks! Be sure to read the entire article for additional details.

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1. Oahu Whale-Watching Excursion

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars — With more than 350 positive REVIEWS

Duration: 2 hours (approximately)

Operated By: Hawaii Nautical

Description: Oahu Whale-Watching Excursion takes you on a magical trip off the coast of Oahu. You can start this excursion either from Ko Olina or Waikiki. Hawaiian warm waters receive pods of humpback whales during the cold winter months. They are most visible from December to May.

This is one tour that guarantees whale sightings. You can watch the gentle migratory mammals feed, swim, and breach. If you are lucky, you may be able to experience a few young calves playing around the boat. The best part is that you will be allowed to do the tour again in the rare event of no whale sightings. And, this would be for free!

Snacks are included on the Oahu Whale-Watching Excursion. However, it is recommended that you bring some lunch on board with you. You can choose between a monohull or catamaran for this 2-hour cruise. All you need to see some mighty humpback whales is a pair of binoculars, which are provided by the team.

You can witness whales play, swim, and feed. There will be an expert guide on board to explain the migration pattern of humpback whales. You can ask questions and learn more about their ecosystem as well.

Why We Love This Tour: There are several reasons to love Oahu Whale-Watching Excursion. For starters, they offer to take you on the excursion again if, for some reason, there are no whale sightings. While this is highly uncommon, it is a nice gesture on part of the tour company.

You also get free snacks and unlimited non-alcoholic beverages to nibble and sip on while you gaze out on the beautiful Hawaiian shores or look towards the majestic beasts.

What’s Included: Expert guide, binoculars, unlimited snacks and non-alcoholic beverages

What Customers are Saying:

“We saw a large pod of whales. There was about 5/6 of them. One breeched multiple times in a row! The crew said they were blown away by the large number of whales and the number of times they breeched. It was awesome! Captain Flynn and his crew were amazing and so helpful and informative.”

2. Whale Watch Cruise aboard the Majestic by Atlantis Cruises

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars — With more than 100 positive REVIEWS

Duration: 2.5 hours (approximately)

Operated By: Atlantis Adventures Hawaii

Description: You are guaranteed a whale sighting aboard the Majestic. The Whale Watch Cruise is chaperoned by a naturalist that knows just the right spots to look for whales. In the rare event where the tour guides are not able to find a whale, the tour company offers a complimentary whale watching cruise. You can pick a nice indoor window for viewing or a spot aboard the deck in fresh air. The Majestic lives up to its name and gives you a great experience as it glides past Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.

This guide is perfect for tourists that don’t just want to look at whales, but want to know more about them. The naturalist on-board will provide informative commentary about the Hawaiian shores and its marine ecosystem. They will also point out any other marine life that comes by, such as Hawaiian spinner dolphins, porpoises, and sea turtles.

The Whale Watch Cruise begins its journey off the coast of Oahu. You can see more than migrating humpback whales gambol in their natural habitat. This is among the rare cruises that guarantees a whale sighting. You can order a buffet lunch if you want to simply kick back and relax in the lap of luxury.

Why We Love This Tour: The Whale Watch Cruise aboard the Majestic is a super comfortable way of seeing massive humpback whales. You can take your pick from spacious outdoor decks to cool indoor viewing through picture windows. The usual whale-watching cruise lasts about 2 hours. You get an additional 30 minutes to relax and enjoy your meal, as there is the option of a buffet lunch. Lastly, the team guarantees you’ll spot a whale while on this cruise. If not, they offer a complimentary cruise.

What’s Included: Expert naturalist commentary, 2.5-hour whale-watching cruise, and optional buffet lunch.

What Customers are Saying:

“Awesome experience! Live music, beautiful boat, great staff and an amazing show from a mana and baby hump back including full breaches from both. The trip couldn’t have been better! Thank you!”

— Marilyn, TOUR REVIEW

3. Early Bird Whale Watching Cruise from Waikiki

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars — With more than 100 positive REVIEWS

Duration: 2 hours (approximately)

Operated By: Star of Honolulu Cruises and Events

Description: This whale-watching cruise from Waikiki promises the sighting of humpback whales during their annual migration season. You can enjoy great photo ops with these majestic creatures. Don’t forget the beautiful views of Diamond Head, Honolulu, and Kahala Gold Coast as well. The tour guide will keep their eyes peeled and let you know if they spot any other marine life. There is a big chance you could see porpoises, Hawaiian spinner dolphins, and sea turtles alongside some beautiful whales.

Why We Love This Tour: The Star of Honolulu is one of the most comfortable settings to watch whales in Hawaii. There are three types of stabilizers and four walk-around decks for the ultimate whale-watching experience. The naturalist crew on board the Star of Honolulu is certified, and they will share informational bits to make your whale watch more memorable aboard this large and award-winning cruise.

What’s Included: Naturalist guide and onboard exhibits

What Customers are Saying:

“Beautiful morning with excellent weather. Was greeted by a warm and receptive crew. This is our second time aboard this ship and we enjoyed every moment. Highly recommend this quick trip. We saw a mother and her calf breaching next to us for 25 minutes. The captain extended our trip since we found them towards the end. Truly enchanting to see nature in all of its glory.”

— Paul, TOUR REVIEW

4. Whale Watching and Breakfast Cruise in Honolulu

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars — With more than 20 positive REVIEWS

Duration: 2 hours (approximately)

Operated By: Atlantis Adventures Hawaii

Description: Whales are most active in the early mornings and late evenings. Hence, when you join this Whale Watching and Breakfast Cruise in Honolulu, you are guaranteed amazing whale sightings. The best part is that you don’t need to skip your breakfast or miss out on watching whales because you are too busy eating.

You can take it easy while in Hawaii and have the best breakfast view possible. The cruise goes around the Diamond Head Crater to give you really amazing photo opportunities. With luck, you’ll be able to watch migrating whales play, swim, breach, and feed. And, you can do all this and more while sipping a delicious cup of coffee.

There is a high chance that other marine life, such as sea turtles, dolphins, and porpoises will also make an appearance. So, save time and maximize your chances of spotting the beautiful whales in Hawaii. There is nothing more awe-inspiring than watching whales swimming, feeding, playing, and breaching in their natural environment. The Whale Watching and Breakfast Cruise is aboard the Prince Kuhio, which has an exceptional platform and a stable upper deck, providing a truly unforgettable experience.

Why We Love This Tour: The best part about this tour is that you get breakfast on board. This is the perfect whale watching tour for early risers or people that would still be adjusting to the time. You can watch the sunrise over Waikiki while you savor 100% Kona coffee and look at whales swimming and breaching. This 2-hour tour is meant to be a relaxing cruise which also includes a look at Lēʻahi or the world heritage site of Diamond Head Crater.

What’s Included: Freshly cooked breakfast, tea/coffee, bottled water, soda/pop

What Customers are Saying:

“Crew was super friendly and attentive. We went in late March and were able to see a few whales. Food was delicious. Great experience. Would recommend.”

— Constantino, TOUR REVIEW

5. Private Whale Watching Adventure

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars — With more than 15 positive REVIEWS

Duration: 2 hours (approximately)

Operated By: The Adventure Boat

Description: Go out in search of whales on a private boat. This thrilling experience ventures off the coast of Oahu from Waikiki. It sets sail along the southern coast to find these majestic creatures. The captain on this private whale-watching adventure knows just the right spots to comb along the coast for optimal viewing.

You can learn about the migrating habits of whales and other marine life. This is a private tour, and you don’t need to follow any set itinerary. You can customize it the way you want. The tour team gives you the option to choose from a morning or afternoon cruise. All you need to do is kick back and admire the coastal scenery while you sail. The team will provide light refreshments during the 2-hour whale watching tour.

Why We Love This Tour: Private boat means you can customize the experience as per your tastes. The boat can house up to 6 guests comfortably, which is great if you are with a large group. While the team provides complimentary sodas and refreshments, you are allowed to bring other food.
What’s Included: Bottled water, sodas, light snacks, 2-hour whale watching tour

What Customers are Saying:

“We saw several whales. We were able to get closer than any tour boat. We also were able to follow two of them at a safe distance for quite a while. The guides were very knowledgeable and friendly.”

— Jordan, TOUR REVIEW

6. Private Adventure Boat Charter with Snorkeling

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars — With more than 60 positive REVIEWS

Duration: 2 hours (approximately)

Operated By: The Adventure Boat

Description: The Private Adventure Boat Charter with snorkeling is a 2-hour private cruise that gives guests the option to escape the crowds. You won’t forget this cruise quickly. The charter boat reportedly goes farther and faster than anyone else in Oahu, as claimed by the tour company.

They offer beyond spectacular coastal sightseeing and incredible marine life, including dolphins, turtles, and whales. The highlight is that you can go snorkeling. You can ask for an exclusive and fully customizable itinerary for enjoying an adventure trip. Soak up the coastline sights and spot elusive marine life. The boat can comfortably host six guests at a time.

Why We Love This Tour: We love this tour because they offer a private charter. You can linger in places you want. The best part is that they offer free snorkeling equipment for use. You can dive in and be part of the beautiful coastline marine life if you so please.

What’s Included: Snorkeling equipment

What Customers are Saying:

“We booked this to get away from the crowd and do a family boat trip, we saw a very active whale jumping around a couple turtles and fed some fish, the hosts were informational and very friendly, I loved it! and had fun!”

— Jeweline, TOUR REVIEW

7. Eco-Friendly Whale Watching Cruise

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars — With more than 19 positive REVIEWS

Duration: 2 hours (approximately)

Operated By: Hawaii Nautical

Description: The Eco-Friendly Whale Watching Cruise is for people that want to vacation responsibly and sustainably. This 2-hour boat cruise starts from the west coast of Oahu. It gives you an opportunity to reconnect with nature as you look at humpback whales migrating during the winter months. The tour planners offer a free trip in the event you miss out on seeing whales.

The cruise takes you around the stunning Ko Olina coastline. The boat is a spacious catamaran with an amazing viewing platform. You can also choose to have your whale-watching expedition on a monohull powerboat. The cruise will sail from Waianae Harbor and stick to shallow waters for a comfy and surreal ride.

Just because it is eco-friendly doesn’t mean you cannot soak up the fantastic weather and unwind. You will be offered complimentary cookies, chips, and sodas on the cruise as you gaze over frolicking whales.

Why We Love This Tour: We love this tour because it is eco-friendly without compromising on comfort. The team offers a free ride if you miss out on seeing any whales. There is an exciting opportunity to find other marine life in the shallow coastal waters. In addition, the team offers complimentary pick-ups from Ko Olina hotels and light refreshments.

What’s Included: Free hotel pick-up, light refreshments

What Customers are Saying:

“We had perfect weather and smooth seas. A blow was sighted soon after we left the harbor. We followed two different mothers with calves. Another bonus was a large group of spinner dolphins who played around the catamaran as we returned to the harbor. It us something I will never forget!!”

— Nancy, TOUR REVIEW

8. West Oahu Whale-Watching Excursion

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars — With more than 25 positive REVIEWS

Duration: 2 hours (approximately)

Operated By: Hawaii Nautical

Description: The West Oahu Whale-Watching Excursion takes you out on a comfortable and spacious catamaran. They guarantee sightings of humpback whales playing, breaching, and feeding. In the rare event that you miss out on seeing whales, the team offers a complimentary tour at no additional cost.

Oahu water offers the best opportunity for spotting whales, and the team knows exactly where to look for them. You will have a knowledgeable guide on board to talk about the migrating, feeding, and other habits of whales. There is plenty of space aboard the catamaran, so you won’t need to jostle for a good view.

Why We Love This Tour: This is a spacious catamaran that can easily house 40 guests. With that said, the team only offers 24 spots at a time. You will have enough room to wander about for unobstructed views. The team offers a complimentary tour if you are unable to watch any whales.

What’s Included: Light snacks and bottled water

What Customers are Saying:

“The crew was great! Very friendly and knowledgeable. We saw about 8 whales on our trip and some dolphins! The day was perfect! We had to go very north to to find the whales, but when we did we were not disappointed!”

— Kathleen, TOUR REVIEW

9. West Oahu Whale Watching & Sunset Cruise

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Duration: 2.5 hours (approximately)

Operated By: Indigo Ocean Hawaii

Description: This is another spacious catamaran perfect for whale-watching adventures in West Oahu. This is a sunset tour when the whales are most likely to breach. Sunset tour also means you will get a chance to see the beautiful Hawaiian waterscape. That is two things you can check from your list of things to do. The cruise will move along the western coastline while you unwind. The team will look for marine wildlife and point them out. Based on this, there is no guarantee on this tour.

Why We Love This Tour: This is a sunset tour that gives you the added benefit of witnessing the majestic creatures against the backdrop of a setting sun, making the photo opportunities on this cruise absolutely fantastic. The company provides to-and-from shuttle service from any designated hotel.

What’s Included: Snacks, sodas, bottled water, to-and-from shuttle service from your designated hotel

What Customers are Saying:

“Had a wonderful time with family and friends. The boat crew were awesome. Our driver, Tater tot, who picked us up at the hotel was also great and very knowledgeable.”

— Coleen, TOUR REVIEW

What Type of Whales Do You See On Tours?

There are different kinds of whales in the waters around Oahu. This includes sperm whales, humpbacks, melon headed whales, false killer whales, and pygmy whales. Humpback whales are among the most common whales you will see during a typical Oahu boating tour. These whales migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters every year from Alaska between December and May for breeding and birthing.

An estimate by scientists and experts states that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population travels over 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii to breed, birth, and nurse their calves (they love their babies!). An interesting fact about Oahu whale-watching tours is that you don’t just get to see whales. Waters off the coast of Oahu have a stunning and myriad mix of marine wildlife.

You get to spot other sea creatures like turtles, dolphins, and porpoises. Out of the 23 species of marine mammals that call Hawaii their home, 22 are dolphins and whales. The last one is the Hawaiian monk seal, also known as the pinniped. The Hawaiian false killer whale, sperm whale, blue whale, and fin whale are all endangered.

How and Where to Spot Whales in Oahu Without a Tour?

There are some great spots to see these breathtaking creatures from the shore if you don’t want to spend time and money on a tour. The best part is that you don’t need to time your whale-watching as per someone else’s schedule. Stemming from this, you would likely need a car to go this route. These are a few great spots to see whales from the shore:

You should not get too close if you see a whale. You need to remember that whales are wild animals, and it is best if their space is respected. Further, it is illegal to touch or get within 100 yards of these magnificent creatures.

One of the many organized whale-watching tours mentioned above can give you a closer encounter with these gentle sea creatures without breaking any rules. These companies will ensure you have a great time. They have experience in finding all the amazing whale-watching spots as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best month for whale watching in Oahu?

The whale-watching season in Oahu usually begins by the 15th of every December and lasts till April. February and March are considered the best months for whale sightings. You can catch a glimpse of the humpback whale, or kohola, from December to May in Oahu’s southern seas. These majestic yet gentle giants come to the warm waters of Hawaii for breeding, birthing, and nursing their newborn calves.

Where is the best place to see whales on Oahu?

Oahu has many beaches that can give you a good whale sighting. You can go to any scenic spot, such as Hanauma Bay or Makapu’u Lighthouse. You can also watch whales along the seaside near Lēʻahi (Diamond Head). The majority of whale-watching cruises and tours depart from Oahu’s southern and western harbors.

What time of day are whales most active?

Whales can be crepuscular (active at night) and less diurnal (active during daytime). They are usually most active during the twilight or magic hours before sunrise and after sunset. Based on this, whales are creatures of the water, and they do their thing the entire day. There is no “best” time to watch these beautiful marine animals. You will always have a good chance of seeing whales whether you decide to head out in the evening, morning, or afternoon. You will be able to find other marine wildlife as well.

Is it better to do whale watching in the morning or afternoon?

It is true that whales are most active around 8 am early morning and sunset. There are several tour companies that offer guaranteed sightings and complimentary tours if you miss out on seeing a whale. Moreover, you can increase your chances of whale sightings by booking a morning or evening cruise.

Is whale watching better in Maui or Oahu?

Maui is the best place in Hawaii to watch whales. Pertaining to this, that doesn’t mean that Oahu doesn’t have outstanding sighting spots. The south and west coast of Hawaii have the most whale activity. Oahu is one of Hawaii’s busiest tourist destinations, which means you get more opportunities in terms of whale-watching cruises.

Which Hawaiian Island has the most whales?

Maui has the most whales during season. However, other islands are not far behind. The island of Oahu, off the shores of Big Island, and Kauai offer some of the best whale-watching tours.

What should I bring on a whale watching tour?

You should not come without a camera since you will be seeing amazing sights. Binoculars are a great idea if you want a closer look at these beautiful creatures. Most tours offer light snacks. If you plan on a longer tour, you should bring some more snacks and add comfortable footwear to your packing list. A hat, sunscreen, and a windbreaker are recommended since it can become windy when out on the water.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for the best whale-watching tours on Oahu, look no further than these nine fantastic options:

Each tour offers something unique and special that will make your whale-watching experience one to remember. So whether you’re looking for a private charter, an eco-friendly tour, or a West Oahu excursion, one of these tours is sure to please!

Mahalo for reading our post! Until next time, Aloha!

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