whale watching oahu

Best Dolphin & Whale Watching On Oahu

Catching a glimpse of Hawaiian spinner dolphins and migrating humpback whales can be life changing, especially when you do so in a safe and responsible way. When it comes to dolphin and whale watching Oahu has a lot of options. It’s easy to spot a spinner dolphin once you’re out on the water. Humpback whales are more elusive, journeying down to the warm Hawaiian waters only in the winter between December and April. Oahu’s leeward, or west, coast is the best spot to see these gentle giants—and while there are a few whale watching tours on Oahu, most marine cruises will encounter humpbacks during the season.

From luxury cruises with complimentary cocktails to rugged open-ocean excursions on Zodiac, check out these awesome options for dolphin and whale watching Oahu has to offer! But note, if you’re hoping to see humpback whales, make sure you book during the migration season to avoid disappointment!

#1 – Snorkel with dolphins (and whale watch in season)
Ko Olina Adventures, Kapolei

This cruise up Oahu’s leeward coast includes a chance to snorkel with Hawaiian spinner dolphins. Hop on Ko Olina Adventure’s speedboat and hit the open ocean in search of Oahu’s premium snorkeling destinations. This tour includes two snorkel sites, one with Hawaiian spinner dolphins and the other at a coral reef teeming with tropical fish. Best of all, in season this tour includes whale watching and the crew have hydrophones on board so you can hear the whales sing underneath you.

Choose this for: snorkeling with dolphins (whale watching in season)

whale watching oahu#2 – Whale watch on Oahu’s leeward coast
Dolphin Excursions, Waianae, West Oahu

These small-group whale watching tours are available December to March, during Hawaii’s whale watching season. Departing from Waianae at 2pm, they’ll take you out on their 34-foot rigid inflatable boat so you can get up close and personal with the whales. Watch these gentle giants breach and slap the water as they blow off some steam in Oahu’s leeward waters. The west coast seem too far for you? These guys also offer roundtrip transportation from Waikiki and Ko Olina hotels.

Choose this for: small-group whale watching

whale watching oahu#3 – Sail Oahu’s leeward coast with dolphin sightings and whale watching in season
Ko Olina Adventures, Kapolei

Sail up Oahu’s west coast in style on the Holole’a Kai, a 53-foot Gold Coast Catamaran, on this Catamaran Snorkel Sail. This tour includes two snorkeling locations on Oahu’s leeward coast, punctuated by dolphin and whale sightings (in season) along the way. After snorkeling, you can enjoy a Hawaiian-style lunch and complimentary cocktails. Creature comforts on this boat include an onboard bathroom and fresh-water shower—not to mention sunbathing cushions and plenty of space to stretch out.

Choose this for: luxury sail with whale watching in season

whale watching oahu#4 – Go on a sunrise cruise of Oahu’s North Shore
Nani Kai Ocean Adventures, Haleiwa, North Shore

Nani Kai Ocean Adventures on Oahu’s North Shore offers a sunrise cruise with whale sightings in season. See highlights of the North Shore from the water like Sunset Beach, Ka’ena Point, Waimea Bay, and the Banzai Pipeline. During the winter months, catch glimpses of humpback whales breaching nearby. And no matter how wild the winter waves get, the Kama Hele Kai, a 32-foot Lightning Power Catamaran, will keep you safe and sound.

Choose this for: small-group whale watching in season

whale watching oahu#5 – Snorkel Oahu’s leeward coast with dolphin and whale sightings
Ocean Joy Cruises, Kapolei

Cruise up the west coast of Oahu with dolphin sightings and whale watching in season on the Kai Oli’Oli with this family-run tour company. Their morning cruise will take you on a fully narrated tour of the entire west coast of Oahu. During the winter months, you’ll see whales in their natural habitat and glimpse dolphins playing in the boat’s wake. Space is limited to just 12 passengers on this boat making it super intimate, and the tour includes a buffet as well as alcoholic beverages. Not too shabby!

Choose this for: small-group whale watching in season

whale watching oahu#6 – Swim with dolphins on the leeward coast
Dolphin Excursions, Waianae, West Oahu

If swimming with dolphins is on your bucket list, this one’s for you. This Dolphin Excursion is led by seasoned island naturalists with years of experience on the Waianae Coast. Once in the water you’ll be instructed in the proper way of passively observing these creatures giving you a safe open ocean experience you will always remember. This tour includes  roundtrip travel from Waikiki and Ko Olina hotels as well as a lunch.

Choose this for: swimming with dolphins

 

whale watching oahu#7 – Sail Oahu’s south shore with whale watching in season
Makani Catamaran, Honolulu

While away the afternoon in style on this luxury catamaran. Makani Catamaran’s Afternoon Fun in the Sun Sail will take you along Oahu’s south shore where you can see sights such as the Ko’olau Mountains, shimmering Honolulu skyline, and the majestic peak of Diamond Head. Not to be missed of course are the humpback whales breaching in the distance during the winter months. With open-air seats, a great sound system, and a full bar this boat is popular among couples and newlyweds.

Choose this for: full bar and whale watching in season

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It’s important to be respectful of all marine life. If you want to learn more about NOAA Fisheries guidelines for safely and respectfully viewing marine life, check out this page on their website.

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