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The humpbacks are back! Our guide for Hawaii whale watching season

The Big Island of Hawaii
: Kapaa Beach Park, on the northern tip of the island near
Hawi, is a bit rocky for swimming. But the cove guarantees calm, clear waters, which make conditions easier for spotting passing humpbacks. The beach is located off Hwy 270, north of the South Kohala town of Kawaihae.

Kauai: The peninsula of Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai’s beautiful north shore has an excellent ocean panorama. From a designated observation area in the shadow of the peninsula’s historic lighthouse, you’ll be able to whale watch from sea cliffs hundreds of feet above the turbulent north shore surf. Admission to the refuge is $5; hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

What telltale signs of whale behavior should you look for when watching from shore?

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Maui programs coordinator Patty Miller offered us some whale behaviors to look for.

• Spouting or blows. This is the explosive exhale of air through a whale’s blowhole, which occurs when whales rise to surface to breathe. Adult whales surface approximately every 10 to 15 minutes and calves every 3 to 5 minutes.

• Pec flaps. The slapping of a whale’s fin against the water’s surface.

• Breaching. The most visually spectacular of all whale behaviors, breaching occurs when whales launch themselves out of the water, and fall dramatically back into the sea with a huge splash. Humpbacks are known to be prodigious jumpers so breaching is a common sight seen from shore.

What is a good day for whale watching and what do should you bring along?

A good idea before heading out is to check the daily weather report for clear skies. Rainy days may obscure visibility from the shore. A windy day means rough seas, which decreases the likelihood of spotting whales. As for gear to take with you, make sure you have your camera and a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. After that, just keep your eyes on the ocean.

For more info on humpback whale behavior and their Hawaii habitats click here.

Photos by: Commons Wikipedia (pg.1); http://www.flickr.com/photos/lassi_kurkijarvi/ (pg.2)

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
Maui’s humpback whales
Humpbacks are back! Hawaii’s 2011-12 whale-watching season now under way
First humpback of Hawaii whale watching season spotted off Maui

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