Top Ten Locations for Land-Based Whale Watching

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Top Ten Locations for Land-Based Whale Watching

There are a few characteristics in common for these land-based whale watching sites, as identified by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. First, they are easy to access, not too difficult to locate and there’s parking nearby. Second—more important—is their elevation—the higher elevation the greater viewing distance.

Makapuu Lighthouse, Oahu 
Directions: Travel east on Kalanianaole Highway towards Makapuu Point. Site is approximately 4.5 miles from Koko Marina Shopping Center. Look for trail entrance on the right hand side of the road before the scenic lookouts. A black gate indicates the start of the trail.
Parking: A paved parking lot is available off the main road.
Facilities: No public facilities are available.
Elevation: ~400 feet
Comments: A 1-3/4 mile hike (approx. 30-45 minutes) up a 30 degree grade is required to get to the site. The semi-paved trail is at a moderate slope. Windy conditions at the top. 

Halona Blowhole, Oahu
Directions: From town: Travel east on Kalaniana‘ole Highway towards Hanauma Bay. Halona Blowhole is the second lookout area past Hanauma Bay. From Kailua: Travel south on Kalaniana`ole Highway through Waimanalo past Sea Life Park and Makap`u Point. Site is the large lookout just past Sandy Beach.
Parking: A paved parking lot is available off the main road.
Facilities: No public facilities are available. No shade. Handicapped accessible. Nearest public restrooms located at Sandy Beach.
Elevation: 70 feet
Comments: Easily accessible from the main road, high vantage point for viewing. Can be very hot or windy, dress accordingly.

Hanauma Bay, Oahu
Directions: Travel east on Kalanianaole Highway towards Makapuu Point. Entrance to Hanauma Bay will be on the right, not far from Koko Marina Shopping Center. Participants will meet in the upper park picnic area.
Parking: Parking is available in the Hanauma Bay lot ($1 per vehicle).
Facilities: Public restrooms and drinking water are available near the parking lot. No shade available. Not handicapped accessible.
Elevation: 80-120 feet
Comments: Whale watching can be conducted from lookout points. 

Diamond Head Scenic Lookout, Oahu
Directions: Heading east on Diamond Head Road, look for the second lookout after the lighthouse.
Parking: Parking is available along Diamond Head Road (stalls fill up quickly).
Facilities: No restrooms, water or shade.
Elevation: ~120 feet
Comments: Convenient access to the site. Excellent site for whale watching due to its elevation, though binoculars are recommended. Very hot and humid, come prepared.

Papawai Point, Maui
Directions: Near mile marker 8 on the Hono-a-Piiliani Highway between the town of Maalaea and Lahaina.  Look for the paved pull off area on the ocean side of the highway. 
Parking:  A paved parking lot is available on the ocean side of the highway.  There are several marked parking spaces.
Facilities: No public facilities are available.
Elevation: 200 feet
Comments: You can view whales from your vehicle.  Avoid standing too close to the edge of this steep overlook.  

Sanctuary Education Center, Kihei, Maui 
Directions:  From the Kahului Airport:  Take Highway 380 W, turn left on Puunene which turns into Highway 311, then turn left (South) on South Kihei Road to 726 S. Kihei Road.  From Lahaina:  Take Highway 30 to Ma‘alaea, turn right on Highway 31 N. Kihei Road, then turn right on South Kihei Road to 726 S. Kihei Road.
Parking: Parking is available. 
Facilities: Public facilities are available in the Sanctuary Education Center.
Elevation: 25 feet
Comments: Viewing scope is available on site.  Be sure to visit the Education Center.
 
Lapakahi State Historical Park, Hawaii
Directions: Take Highway 270 north of Kawaihae at mile marker 14. Site is located 100 yards past the gate at the top of the hill. Approximately 1/2 mile from shore. Look for the sign on roadway.
Parking: Parking available.
Facilities: Restrooms are available however no shade or public facilities available. Not handicapped accessible.
Elevation: 100 feet
Comments: Lapakahi is a cultural and historical state park. Hot, bring umbrella!

Kapaa Beach Park, Hawaii
Directions: Site is located off of Highway 270 (Pule Highway). Traveling north, turn left on the one-lane paved road just past mile marker 16. Site is located at the end of the road.
Parking: Adequate parking is available for approximately 10 cars.
Facilities: Public restrooms (portable) and shaded areas are available. Handicapped accessible.
Elevation: ~20 feet
Comments: Covered picnic pavilions are available. Hiking trails lead off the site.
 
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai 
Directions: Meet at the gated entrance to the Kilaue`a Point National Wildlife Refuge by 7:15 am. The site leader will get the volunteers through the gated entrance, since the refuge does not open to the public until 10 am. All cars will be allowed to drive through the gate and park in the public parking lot. Volunteers will walk out to the point and set up an observation area.
Parking: Public parking is available at the refuge.
Facilities: Restrooms are available in the refuge visitor center.
Elevation: 180 feet
Comments: No pets are allowed. This is a wildlife refuge where human food consumption is strictly limited because of the potential for ants, rats, and feeding native wildlife. 

Kapaa Overlook, Kaua`i 
Directions: This is the paved pull-off along Kuhio Highway located between Kapaa town and Kealia Beach.
Parking: Parking is available at the lookout.
Facilities: No restrooms or water available.
Elevation: 40 feet
Comments: Excellent view of the Kapa`a reef.

Source: Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary