The first humpback whales often arrive in the Hawaiian Islands early in the fall, but many residents will tell you the best viewing doesn’t take place until the first of the year.

More than 10,000 humpback whales winter in the Aloha State each year, according to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, with peak viewing typically during January, February and March.

Weighing as much as 45 tons, the giant mammals travel from Alaska to mate and calve in the warm, reasonably shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, providing a wonderful attraction for visitors that not only includes spouts and flukes but frequent breaches and all sorts of dynamic mating and dominance behaviors.

However, humpback whales are protected in the state of Hawaii, and federal regulations prohibit approaching within 100 yards of whales when on the water. And that applies to all ocean users: kayakers, paddle boarders, windsurfers, swimmers, divers and so on.

“It’s important for everyone to be extra cautious during whale season, for their own safety and the protection of the animals,” said Ed Lyman, marine mammal response manager for Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
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