Whale watching is an activity that allows you see these enormous mammals in their natural habitat and play a role in their conservation. Because your time is valuable we have prepared these 6 tips on whale watching to allow you to make the most out of your time. After you have read our whale watching tips you will:
- Know when whale season is
- Know where you can see most whales
- Pick good weather for whale watching
- Bring all the gear necessary for a comfortable whale watching trip
- Know the different kinds of stunts the humpback whales perform
- Know how to pick a tour operator that cares for the whales
Did you know that a whale is more closely related to a giraffe than to a fish? If you want to learn more about humpback whales, we recommend our Humpback Whale 101 guide. This guide to whale watching gives you a broad popular scientific background on humpback whales and more whale watching (and listening!) tips.
Our top 6 whale watching tips are:
Without further ado we give you our checklist to make sure you have a great whale watching experience. We advise you to:
 Find out when whale season is
This is our most obvious but most important tip: Know when and where to look for whales. Whales are migrating animals and typically divide their time between a summer and winter hangout.
The north pacific Humpback whales spend their winter in Hawaii between November and May, but there are many more whale populations. Have a look here to see where humpback whale population around the world spend their summer and winter.
 Find the favorite whale hang out on Hawaii
This is a tip especially for those of you that want to go whale watching in Hawaii. During 1993 and 2003 Dr. Joe Mobley from the University of Hilo conducted an aerial survey of the whales around Hawaii. On the following map you can see where he found the most whales:
The yellow contours don’t mean that there were only a few whales in those areas, but that there were less than at the red zones.
- On the Big Island, the Kohala coast and north Kona are the best places to watch whales. Hilo and green sand beach are good alternatives.
- On Oahu, you want to go to the north shore
- On Maui, the west coast is a whale hotspot
- On Kauai the north and west coasts offer great whale watching.
 Mind the weather
In a rough sea or with high winds it is more difficult to spot the whales. Check the weather forecast and if you have a choice, go for the best day!
 Pack good gear
Preparation, preparation, preparation… Have a look at our next tips to complete your packing list and to go whale watching in style and comfort.
On the ocean you are always in need of good sun protection because sunlight reflects back from the water and has a more intense impact than on land. Be sure to bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Polarized sunglasses are best for whale watching (they filter out he sun reflecting from the water), and make sure to safely secure your hat and glasses so you wont loose them.
Taking good pictures of whales is more difficult than it seems. Often the whales are far away and their stunts only last seconds. You have to bring a camera with good zoom and have a quick aim + focus to make better pictures. If the whales are closer, making pictures becomes much easier.
Don’t spend all your time looking through your camera, but also put it away and enjoy the show with your own eyes!
Binoculars are great to zoom into a whale as soon as you spot it – bring some f you have them! With binoculars you can study the whale behaviors far better, but be careful because if you look through binoculars you get seasick more easily.
Food & beverages
Bring bottled water, snacks, and a bag for your trash. Most whale watching tours also offer food and drinks on board, but they don’t know what you like best!
What to wear really depends on the weather conditions, but a light jacket to break the windchill (or to protect from the sun) is always a good idea.
If you are prone to seasickness, you can consider taking motion sickness medicine before you get on a whale watching boat. Keeping your eyes on the horizon and keeping cool are good strategies to avoid getting seasick, as well as sipping on carbonated beverages or eating products containing ginger.
 Know your whales
Spotting the whales is fun, but can you name what their stunts? And do you know how you can recognize individual whales by their looks? Read our Humpback Whale 101 to get a solid humpback whale background and to get some facts and trivia to tell your fellow passengers.
 Choose a responsible tour operator
Because whale watching creates jobs and revenue, it is getting more and more weight in the attempts to stop whaling. By going on a whale watching cruise you can help to protect the humpback whales! Have a look at our whale watching guide and choose a tour operator that respects the laws meant to protect the ocean and the wildlife. Ask about their policies before you book.
 – ? –
Do you think we missed something? We would love to read your best whale watching tips in the comments!