Cruises bring clients close to the humpbacks that spend their winters in Hawaii’s warm waters. // © 2014 Star of Honolulu Cruises and Events
Feature image (above): The Navatek heads east past Diamond Head, providing passengers with plenty of whale-watching opportunities. // © 2014 Atlantis Adventures
Each year from mid-October to early May, thousands of humpbacks migrate to Hawaii’s warm waters to breed, calve and nurse their young. Clients can watch from shore as the whales breach and spout, but a boat tour generally provides better, closer views of the splashy action.
Whale watch cruises also come with added benefits for their guests. Onboard naturalists share fascinating facts. Some companies offer food, drink and activities as part of the cost. Along the way, passengers enjoy dramatic island views from sea. Most tours guarantee whale sightings, or the next trip is free. Each of the cruises below features fine whale watching opportunities. Hop on board and get ready to yell, “Thar she blows!”
Atlantis Navatek Cruises, Oahu
Atlantis’ high-tech twin-hull vessel called Navatek provides an ultra-smooth ride. Unlike other Honolulu-based cruises, it travels east beyond Diamond Head, giving the staff and their guests more chances to spot whales. During the less-expensive morning excursion, food, snacks and drinks cost extra. Rates for the midday cruise include a sizable lunch. Both depart from Pier 6 at Aloha Tower Marketplace.
Body Glove Cruises, Hawaii Island
A big Body Glove selling point is naturalist Denver Leaman, an onboard fixture for 25 years. If guests stump him with a whale-oriented question — which is rare — they get a free drink. Body Glove’s 65-foot catamaran is wheelchair-accessible from bow to stern. One of its two tours out of Kona allows time for snorkeling, breakfast and a barbecue lunch. Whale songs from an underwater hydrophone further enliven the ride.
Capt. Andy’s Sailing, Kauai
Year-round, a Napali Coast cruise on a catamaran or raft serves up unparalleled views of sea cliffs, caves and valleys. Winter whale watching makes the trip that much better. Clients hear whale songs through onboard sound systems. The crew shares information not just about whales, but the history and geology of the coastline. From Port Allen Harbor, tour options include daytime snorkel/barbecue sails and dinner sunset sails.
Pacific Whale Foundation, Maui
Departing from Lahaina and Maalaea harbors, this longtime nonprofit organization prides itself on its support of the sea. Its certified naturalists are top-notch, and its vessels are environmentally sustainable. Passengers can listen to humpback squeaks, clicks and hums, courtesy of hydrophones. A junior naturalist program keeps the kids engaged. Its newest ecotour presents water-level views from a rigid-hull inflatable raft.
Star of Honolulu Cruises and Events, Oahu
There’s room to roam on Star of Honolulu, which features a 60-foot-high observation deck and four walk-around decks. The ADA-compliant vessel has three types of stabilizers for smooth passage. Children ride free with paid adults, and a children’s program comes with souvenir learning materials. Tour inclusions accommodate a range of budgets. Cultural activities enhance this exceptional Hawaii whale watching cruise.