Whale-watching cruises provide great photo ops. // © 2016 Ocean Sports
Feature image (above): Each winter, humpback whales are easy to spot in Hawaii's waters. // © 2016 Atlantis Adventures
Like the ultimate family reunion, thousands of whales congregate each winter to mate and give birth in Hawaii’s warm waters. Now through mid-April, visitors to the Aloha State can get an eyeful of the gentle giants during a whale-watching cruise, a splashy way to make family memories. With most companies, if guests don’t see any humpbacks, they cruise again for free.
Star of Honolulu
Oahu options include Star of Honolulu’s premier whale watch, which regales all ages with humpback sightings from a 60-foot-high observation deck. Families will enjoy lively narration, a video presentation, children’s programming and hands-on cultural demonstrations.
Atlantis Adventures’ Waikiki whale-watching cruise takes guests on morning and afternoon outings, with the humpbacks taking center stage. Onboard experts share fascinating facts about the behavior and biology of these captivating creatures, while special activities keep youngsters enthralled.
Ocean Joy Cruises
On Oahu’s leeward side, Ocean Joy Cruises features a morning expedition on a power catamaran. Mom, dad and the kids can learn about Hawaiian history and legends as they scan the sea for whales and dolphins. The three-hour cruise includes a buffet lunch.
Ambassadors Whale Watch
Among Maui’s many humpback adventures is the Ambassadors Whale Watch from The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. On a 30-foot boat, guests find out about the significance of whales in native Hawaiian culture while hearing them sing and seeing them spout. Guides take great photos that clients can download later.
Families can ply the whale-friendly seas of west Maui with Teralani Sailing, a luxury catamaran company. With marine naturalists at their sides, passengers marvel at tail slaps and out-of-water breaches. Each excursion serves gourmet cuisine.
On Hawaii Island, Ocean Sports celebrates the annual return of the humpbacks with multiple catamaran cruises each day. Underwater hydrophones broadcast the whales’ haunting songs. Kids under age 6 ride for free.
Kohala Sail and Sea
Kohala Sail and Sea keeps things intimate on its six-passenger, 34-foot sailboat — a sleek and eco-friendly platform for viewing and photographing whales. Families can book a private charter to personalize the experience.
Kauai Sea Tours
With Kauai Sea Tours, clans can zip along the island’s south shore during an ocean raft trip featuring marine life education, snorkeling and a deli-style lunch. The company also runs humpback whale-watching trips without snorkeling.
Blue Dolphin Charters
As day gives way to evening, south Kauai visitors can savor a two-hour sunset cruise on one of Blue Dolphin Charters’ 65-foot catamarans. Drinks, snacks and a champagne toast add to the magic of this whale-watching trip.