Whale Watching Cruises from Oahu, Hawaii: A Guide

Simply because it is in Hawaii, Oahu is an excellent place to take a whale watching cruise. The Hawaiian Islands are one of the best places in the world to whale watch because of the large influx of whales that appear off the shores each winter, and they can be seen regardless of where you are in Hawaii. However, despite being by far the most populated Hawaiian Island, there aren’t as many whale watching cruises on Oahu as some of the other islands, and the ones that do exist are fairly hard to find. After looking through dozens of websites, though, we managed to come up with what should be a comprehensive (or almost comprehensive) guide to whale watching cruises in Oahu.

As we’ve explained in all our articles on the subject, whale watching cruises in Hawaii focus almost exclusively on humpback whales. From about December through May, thousands of whales migrate to the warm waters off the coasts of the Hawaiian Islands, where they reproduce before heading back to Alaska for the summer to feed. So, during this relatively short window of time, whale watching blooms in Hawaii, and humpback whales are at the center of the action. However, other whale species, like pilot whales, can occasionally be spotted, and a lot of other marine life, like dolphins and sea turtles, can also be seen on whale watching cruises.

One reason that it is difficult to find whale watching cruises in Oahu is that the companies that offer them don’t always advertise this fact very well. A company will offer some sea-based activity, often snorkeling, and then in passing, or whatever the web design equivalent of this is, they’ll mention that they offer whale watching cruises during the humpback whale season. Apart from making this information hard to dig up on sites, it also makes it hard to identify which companies offer whale watching. Thus, we ended up sifting through a fairly large business directory of Oahu’s ocean activity companies, or whatever one might call such a grouping, in order to find the following outlets that offer whale watching in one form or another.

Regular whale watching cruises:
Hawaii Nautical
Dolphin Excursions
Ocean Joy Cruises
Wild Side Specialty Tours

By “regular whale watching cruises,” we meant that these companies offer cruises that sail out for the purpose of seeing whales (or at least this is one of their purposes). As you long as you are there during the humpback season, you should be able to see whales by booking a cruise with any of these four companies. (Note: As far as we can tell, Wild Side is the only company on Oahu, and possibly even the entire state of Hawaii, that offers whale watching cruises all year. After the humpback season, the shift focuses to other species that can be spotted throughout the year.)

In addition to these four outlets, you can also spot whales with companies that generally aren’t in the whale watching game. For example, Ko Olina Ocean Adventures is a snorkeling company, but during the whale watching season, as a “special bonus,” they’ll look for humpback whales during their regular snorkeling tours. Makani Catamaran is somewhat similar. They offer a “luxury sailing adventure” on a nice sailing vessel with food and drinks, so they clearly aren’t a whale watching outfit, but during the humpback season, you can see whales on their tours, and they advertise this as a tour “highlight.” Finally, Under the Sea operates a boat with a magnified glass bottom for ocean tours, and the focus of these tours is basically anything under water, and of course this includes whales, as the company is sure to note. None of these companies offer anything resembling a whale watching cruise, but you can still see whales with them.

Before concluding, we should briefly note that there are a lot of kayaking tours from Oahu, but unlike a couple of the other Hawaiian Islands we have written about, these tours don’t seem to put people in contact with whales. Of course, it is still possible to see a whale, but evidently the kayaking trips don’t take place in areas where whales are regularly spotted.

So, in terms of regular whale watching cruises, there really aren’t that many in Oahu. However, there are still some companies that offer them, and it is also possible to see whales when you sail with a company that isn’t even focused on whale watching. For more general information, check out our article on whale watching cruises in Hawaii.

whale watching cruises

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