Whale Species of Hawaii

Humpback whales tend to get all the attention, especially considering their tremendous size, how aerial they are, and the sheer number that migrate to Hawaii in the winter months. They really know how to steal the show. They also tend to be at their thickest number in the shallower waters around Maui, Lanai and Molokai as they breed and give birth to their calves. We get countless humpback sightings as we continue to provide our exciting Maui whale watch tours, but it may be surprising to know how many other kinds of whales (and dolphins) can be spotted in Hawaii, particularly odontocetes (toothed whales and dolphins).

Here are the fascinating odontocetes you might see here in Hawaii, starting with the most common and descending to the least common.

  1. Short-finned pilot whale
  2. Pantropical spotted dolphin
  3. Rough-toothed dolphin
  4. Common bottlenose dolphin
  5. Spinner dolphin
  6. Dwarf sperm whale
  7. Cuvier’s beaked whale
  8. Melon-headed whale
  9. False killer whale
  10. Blainville’s beaked whale
  11. Sperm whale
  12. Striped dolphin
  13. Pygmy killer whale
  14. Risso’s dolphin
  15. Pygmy sperm whale
  16. Killer whale
  17. Longman’s beaked whale
  18. Fraser’s dolphin

We’re guessing you didn’t expect such a long and impressive list! We can thank the Cascadia Research Collective for their exhaustive efforts to study these whales, and we are proud to say that our Maui ocean tours help fund their work. Out of all the species we’ve talked about, Hawaiian spinner dolphins and North Pacific Humpback whales are protected within the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. That’s because Hawaiian waters provide vital habitat for those two species in particular.

If you’re aboard one of our whale watch tours and you spot something, but you’re not sure what it is, our expert crew can help identify what it is that you saw. It’s a tricky process if the sighting is brief, but that’s half the fun! You never know which of the species on the list might show up. Every outing is unique. We look forward to sharing one with you! Mahalo!

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