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From December to May, visitors to Honolulu may even spy whales breaching as they sunbathe on the sand. Credit: NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

By Amy Drew Thompson

My first time whale watching in Hawaii was aboard a small sailboat. And yes, it was incredible. But I was just as excited, if not more, to see humpbacks breaching from my balcony — a treat many guests at Honolulu hotels likely enjoy this time of year. From December to early May, you could spy whales from virtually any beach, but it’s even more fun spotting them from on high. Don’t forget your binoculars.

Halona Blowhole: Apt name for a place to go whale watching, yes? This natural wonder was created millennia ago, when Oahu’s volcanoes were fiercely active, creating a tube that can blast ocean spray up to 30 feet high. Adjacent, you’ll find Halona Beach Cove, famous for the steamy, salty kiss between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in “From Here to Eternity.” Tip: It “blows” highest on a windy day at high tide. Keep your eyes peeled and you might spy the honu (green sea turtle), as well.

Makapu’u Lighthouse: Whale sightings here are very common, but even without, the trail’s worth a trek for stunning views of the coast and offshore islets — not to mention photo-ops provided by the lighthouse set against the spectacular blue below. Those binoculars will come in handy for spotting seabirds and interpretive signage will help you ID any migrating cetaceans that swim by.

Ka’ena Point State Park: Roughly an hour from Waikiki, this is wild Hawaii, with hikes showcasing some magnificent volcanic coastline. Its eponymous trail follows an old railroad that ran along the westernmost point of Oahu. Ka’ena Point is remote, a protected area that’s home to native plants and birds and frequented by whales in winter months.

Where to stay: The Modern Honolulu is urban, stylish, steps from the beach and offers on-site dining by none other than Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto; the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki, on the western edge of Waikiki, has panoramic views along with its own Arnold Palmer-designed golf course; the Park Shore Waikiki’s location — bordered by the beach and the Honolulu Zoo — make it an excellent choice for traveling families.

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Freelance travel writer Amy Drew Thompson always enjoys whale sightings, whether by sea or by SeaWorld.

Tagged: Hawaii

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