Whale Watching Oahu: The Best Places to Go for Free

Whale Watching Oahu photo
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Whale Watching Oahu: The Best Places to Go for Free

We’re smack-dab in the middle of Hawaii’s whale season. This is the time of year when humpback whales (Kohola, in Hawaiian) migrate to Hawaii waters to mate, give birth, and nurse their young. The good news? You don’t have to book a whale watching Oahu cruise to see these majestic sea creatures. 

If you’re visiting Oahu between December and March, you’ll likely see whales breach from shore. But some spots are better than others when it comes to whale watching. Want to see for yourself? Ahead are some of our favorite Whale Watching Oahu locations that you can access for free. 

Southeast Oahu Whale Watching

Lanai Lookout

About a mile past Hanauma Bay on Kalanianaole Highway is the Lanai Lookout. It’s really just a little parking lot along the sea cliffs, but on clear days it offers a clear view of Molokai, Lanai, and Maui. 

During humpback whale season, the gentle giants often pass within a couple hundred yards of the cliffs, close enough to hear their blowholes and the explosive splashes of their breaches. The cliffs are dangerous – deadly even – so pay close attention to signs and use common sense.

Halona Blowhole

About another mile along the highway, just before Sandy Beach, is the Halona Blowhole Lookout. Famous for the spouting hole in the rocks that shoot 50 feet in the air at times, the lookout offers a similar view as the Molokai Lookout, but with more parking (and tour buses).

This is one of our favorite places for whale watching in Oahu.

While you’re there, check out the famous From Here to Eternity Beach that’s just below the lookout. This is also a dangerous place. Be careful, and stay away from the blowhole.

Makapu‘u Lighthouse

The Makapu‘u Lighthouse walking trail has been greatly improved over the past few years, with increased parking and an improved path. It offers a perfect view of humpbacks navigating the Kaiwi Channel between Molokai and Oahu. 

Worth the trip for the views alone, the Makapu‘u Lighthouse is a popular trail for residents and visitors alike because of its accessibility. It’s also a trail along a sea cliff, so use extreme caution and stay on the path.

people looking out over Makapuu Lighthouse Trail watching for whales on Oahu
Makapuu Trail is a great place to spot whales on Oahu

North Shore

Waimea Bay: Surf and Whale Watching in Oahu

The famous big wave spot on Oahu’s North Shore is best known for its giant surf and the brave athletes who ride it. But it is also a favorite hangout for humpbacks. You can often see them breaching and frolicking at the mouth of the bay during whale season.

Many swimmers and surfers have heard whale songs while in the bay’s waters. But you likely won’t be joining the whales for a swim – Humpback whale season happens at the same time as the North Shore’s big wave season, and its waters are often closed to the public due to dangerous surf. The beach is elevated, though, so visitors and residents alike line the shoreline (at a sensible distance) to see the whales as they pass.


Waikiki isn’t the best place for whale watching on Oahu, as most humpbacks are drawn to the Kaiwi channel. But it’s definitely worth keeping your eyes peeled if you’re here during whale season. 

Whether from the beach, the water, or the comfort of an ocean-view hotel room, visitors just have to gaze toward the horizon for the chance to catch a mother and calf lolling in the waves, or a rambunctious male breaching.

Whale Watching Oahu Locations

Of course, countless places around the state offer prime whale watching locations, but these are some of our favorite, most accessible ones in Oahu. Want an even closer whale encounter? Plan a Hawaii vacation with Hawaii Aloha Travel and have our experts book a whale-watching cruise with a top-rated guide.