By Lena Katz
Hawaii’s marine scene gets a little more crowded each winter, as thousands of North Pacific humpback whales migrate 3,500 miles from Alaska to the warm South Pacific waters.
Here are some of the most popular whale-watching tours and vantage points:
One popular cruise goes out on Star of Honolulu. This large, state-of-the-art motor yacht can accommodate a few hundred people and is very family friendly. In fact, this season each adult fare gets a FREE child companion fare (lunch option extra). This cruise is 2 ½ hours, departs at noon, and is offered through mid-May in 2010.
Atlantis Adventures is one of Hawaii’s best-known marine tour companies. In addition to its famous submarine rides, it operates Navatek lunch cruises out to see the whales in season (through April 11 in 2010). This is a quick, smooth tour appropriate for both families and nervous sailors on a Hawaii vacation — it also runs 2 ½ hours and includes a buffet lunch. Whale sighting is guaranteed or you get to take another trip out for free.
For a small-craft whale-watching experience on your Hawaii vacation, locals recommend Wild Side Specialty Tours. Founded by marine biologists, this company brings people not just near the whales, but right alongside them. There’s an educational element to the excursions, which are typically led and narrated by marine biologists. Observation easily intensifies into actual conservation research if that’s something that interests you. Excursions head out to Oahu’s west coast, particularly off Kaena Point.
Whale-watching from land
Kaena Point has such a large number of humpbacks; you can often see them without even needing to get in a boat. Hawaii experts recommend hiking the 3 ½-mile Kaena Point Trail in Kaena Point State Park to the remote coastline, where humpbacks can often be seen from shore.
Another good coastal trail that provides plenty of whale sightings in season is Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, a 2-mile trail in Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline park, on the southeastern tip of the island. Bring binoculars … and sunblock!
Related Orbitz resources:
Lena Katz is the author of SUN: California and SIP: California, part of the Travel Temptations series published by Globe Pequot Press.