Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Whale footage taken by Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #s 15240, 15642, 24359  

Every winter, thousands of humpback whales travel to the warm, shallow waters of Hawai‘i to mate, give birth, and raise their young. Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary protects these whales and their habitat. From November through April, visitors to the sanctuary can see whales from shore and at sea.

Sanctuary News

a coral reef with fish a sea turtle and hawaiian monk seal; humpback whales and dolphins swimming; a traditional hawaiian boat and an island with the sunsetting in the distance

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Poster is here!

During the National Marine Sanctuary System's 50th anniversary celebration in 2022, a commemorative poster series was launched to capture the beauty and diversity of each site in the system. The posters are two sided, featuring original artwork on the front and educational information on the back. Dive in and download your sanctuary poster today!



Always keep a safe and legal distance (100 yards) from humpback whales.

To report an entangled whale, call the NOAA Fisheries Hotline at 888-256-9840 or hail the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.

To report a violation of approach guidelines and regulations, call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline, 800-853-1964.

Whale Protection

A mother humpback whale swims with her calf

More than half of the humpback whales in the North Pacific seasonally use the waters around the Hawaiian Islands as their principal breeding and calving wintering ground. The sanctuary's mission is to protect Hawai‘i humpback whales and this extremely important habitat through closely aligned education, research, and resource protection efforts. The sanctuary works with the community and our other partners to reduce threats to humpback whales, including through enforcement.

Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA permit #14682

Things to Do

A boy fishing from a beach

The sanctuary encourages water-based activities that are compatible with our mission of protection. Whether you're boating, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, or whale watching, there's plenty to responsibly enjoy in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Research & Science

a man looks over the ocean through mounted binoculars

The sanctuary leads and collaborates in research projects that assess the Hawai‘i population of humpback whales and their use of sanctuary waters. Studies of humpback whales and their activities include documenting whale distribution and abundance, examining their behavior and monitoring potential human impacts.

Native Hawaiian Heritage

People in native Hawaiian dress blowing into conch shells

Ocean stewardship is deeply embedded in Native Hawaiian culture. Humpback whales, or koholā, are an important part of history, legends, and connection to the sea. The cultural and maritime heritage of Hawai‘i plays a role in management decisions and how the sanctuary's daily activities are carried out.

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Poster

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Poster

Hawaiians managed natural resources in ahupua’a, which are land divisions that run from the mountains to the sea. The sanctuary follows this traditional wisdom that recognizes what happens on the land (mauka) impacts the ocean (makai). Within the ocean, koholā serve as ambassadors for collaborative, holistic management to address local and global stressors and protect habitat mauka to makai across the Hawaiian Islands.

National Marine Sanctuary System

national marine Sanctuary system map

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 16 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments.