Hawaii’s favorite annual visitors are kohola, or humpback whales, and you can find them popping up in our island waters through April!
Earlier this week, the crew and I got to see these majestic mammals courtesy of the Star of Honolulu Premier Whale Watch Cruise. Departing from Aloha Tower Marketplace out to Diamond Head and back afforded time to see a couple of pods of whales and enjoy the delicious Taste of Hawaii buffet lunch, as well as have fun with guests performing ‘ukulele and dancing the hula.
The cruise began with a welcome and introduction of the resident naturalist, Laura, who shared some cool stats about the humpback whales—why they travel to the islands and what they do while here. Soon we were turned loose to walk the four decks of the Star of Honolulu and its 60-foot-high observation deck. Regardless of which level we were on, we could see the passing coastline and Ko‘olau mountain range as we made our way toward Diamond Head.
The tall glass buildings of downtown Honolulu very soon gave way to Ala Moana Beach, then Waikiki Beach, the Pink Palace (otherwise known as The Royal Hawaiian) and Waikiki Natatorium. The lone white structure of Diamond Head Lighthouse stood sentinel at the base of Diamond Head.
Our ears were trained to hear naturalist Laura’s and the Captain’s voice over the loudspeaker, and as soon as they spoke, we were ready to follow their lead—be it at noon, 3:00, 6:00 or 9:00 positions. You see, the terms “stern” and “aft” may be the norm for ship references, but there would have been a bunch of confused people scrambling on deck, asking each other, “Where is that?” “Where do we go?!” “I’ll follow you!” So, clock positions worked just fine.
After a few blown-out spouts (it was a windy day and whale spouts used to spot them dissipated pretty quickly), we were finally able to come across legit whale sightings—while standing in line for lunch. Lunch, smunch! I’m here to see whales! Half of us ran outside with smartphones and cameras in hand to capture these behemoths of the ocean.
Sure enough, Laura and the Captain knew what they’re talking about. Whales! You lovely darlings of the sea! We spotted them just short of Diamond Head as their route took them the way we had just come. WAY COOL.
However, there was one teeny situation that threatened to interfere with this momentous occasion. I was hungry. My stomach said so.
Thus, following the smattering of focus beeps and clicking shutters and waiting patiently for the whales to surface, I decided to grab some food. There was no line by this time, so I quickly plated some fish, chicken, noodles, salad and dessert, and walked back to the table. Then the announcement of more whales came across the loudspeaker once more.
Ignoring my stomach’s pleas for sustenance, I ran back to the deck with camera in hand surrounded by other excited whale watchers, ooohing and aaahhing, and started shooting. By this time, I’ve remembered to change the camera setting to continuous shooting (why did I not remember this earlier?).
Ignoring my stomach’s pleas for sustenance, I headed up to the observation deck to see if I could get better shots.
The observation deck was the place to be with less people, but a bit more wind (not always the case, mind you). After taking some shots, I decide to go video. So happy I did, and happy to share my close encounter with you!
After following alongside the pod of three humpback whales, it’s time to head back. Thank you, you magnificent creatures of the sea! I hope to see you again next year.
Downstairs, there’s a whole lot of fun going on as guests have made lei, learned to play the ‘ukulele and dance the hula. Pulling into port, we’re all treated to an awesome performance that’s turned this whale watching venture into a truly fun outing filled with lots of laughter, lightheartedness and merrymaking—it really was that fun!
The 8:45 a.m. Early Bird Whale Watch Cruise and noon Premier Whale Watch Cruise are daily, offering a “Child Free” special and guaranteed whale sightings. If you’d like to experience your own close encounter, contact the Star of Honolulu for detailed info and reservations.
The Star of Honolulu Cruises & Events is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and have lots of exciting changes in the works to create a new experience for its guests. The award-winning Star of Honolulu is undergoing $1 million in renovations, and starting in April, dinner cruise guests will enjoy the new “60 Years of Aloha” show.
Have you been on a whale watch tour? Will this be your first time? Let us know!
Happy whale watching…Sarah