Whale Songs

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Pacific Humpback Whales are truly native Hawaiians—many of them were conceived and born in Hawaiian waters. The Humpbacks spend most of the year in the waters off the Alaska coast and in the Inside Passage where they feed. The waters there are rich in plankton, which is their primary food. Typically, in October and November they begin travelling south to warmer waters. They can be seen all along the Western US coast but particularly around Monterrey during this period of migration. They eventually end in Mexico, along the Baha coast, and in Hawaii where they spend the winter months. It is here where the whales mate and birth their young. The best times to see the whales is toward the end of January to the beginning of March each year. This is the time the whales are most active and can often be seen breaching (jumping) close to the shoreline. The baby whales have grown to the point that they can jump and play. Often, they will breech 10 or more times in rapid succession. Naturally curious, they will approach boats. When the ocean is calm, the mothers tend to keep the babies close to shore—usually within 100 yards or so—where there is more protection from predators. A mother and baby tend to travel with one or more “escort” males who are typically felt NOT to be the babies’ father.



The best places in Hawaii to see the whales are in the areas off of Maui towards Lanai and off the Kona and Kohala Coasts on the Big Island. See the map above to identify these areas. Living on the Big Island, we often see 30 to 40 whales (identified by their spouts) just off the coast near Kua Bay–just North of the KOA airport. Mothers often take their newborn babies into Kailua Bay and stay nearly motionless for hours (“logging”) with the newborn balancing on the mother’s snout.


Much has been speculated about the Humpback “song” (whale songs) but not much is truly known for sure. It does seem that the males are certainly the noisiest. Most of the scientists feel that the song is likely a mating ritual–it does sound as though they are in serious pain at times! Some persons have noted that the songs seem to change each year. If you listen to the sound clips, you can see that they are often high pitched and at times sound almost like cows. These clips were taken with use of an underwater microphone (Hydrophone).

This clip was taken just off the coast of Lana’i in March 2015. A group of whales with their young were directly under our boat. It was so loud that they could be heard even without the Hydrophone:

Whale sounds recorded off the coast of Lana’i in 2014. They sound almost like cows!

This clip was taken off the Kona Coast in 2015:

These voices are much more high pitched. With use of a hydrophone, the sounds can be heard over a mile away.

Similar to the one above.



The word “Haole” literally means a person without a country or of known beginning. It is frequently used nowadays to identify a person of Caucasian ancestry but is an incorrect usage. When Captain Cook (the first Caucasian) came to the islands, he could only identify four generations of his which offended the Hawaiian Chief as it was traditional for Hawaiian people to recite their entire ancestry when meeting someone new. The term haole was used to identify those persons who did not know their ancestry. Although the term can be used in a derogatory fashion nowadays, the original derivation is innocent.


Aloha `Oe


The last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, she inherited the throne from her brother Kalākaua on January 29, 1891. A woman of peace and an accomplished author and songwrite, she became the first Native Hawaiian female author. Upon her death, Liliʻuokalani dictated in her will that all of her possessions and properties be sold and the money raised would go to the Queen Liliʻuokalani Children’s Trust to help orphaned and indigent children. The Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust Fund still exists today.

Aloha `Oe

Words and music by Queen Lili`uokalani

“Aloha ʻOe” (Farewell to Thee) is Queen Liliʻuokalani’s (Hawaii’s last monarch) most famous song and a song commonly sung at High School graduations and other important events. The story of the origin of the song has several variations. They all have in common that the song was inspired by a notable farewell embrace given by Colonel James Harbottle Boyd during a horseback trip taken by Princess Liliʻuokalani in 1877 or 1878 to the Boyd ranch in Maunawili on the windward side of Oʻahu. Originally written as a lovers’ good-bye, the song came to be regarded as a symbol of, and lament for, the loss of her country.

Hawaiian Version:

Ha`aheo ka ua i nâ pali
Ke nihi a`ela i ka nahele
E hahai (uhai) ana paha i ka liko
Pua `âhihi lehua o uka

Aloha `oe, aloha `oe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A ho`i a`e au
Until we meet again

`O ka hali`a aloha i hiki mai
Ke hone a`e nei i
Ku`u manawa
`O `oe nô ka`u ipo aloha
A loko e hana nei

Maopopo ku`u `ike i ka nani
Nâ pua rose o Maunawili
I laila hia`ia nâ manu
Miki`ala i ka nani o ka lipo

English Translation:

Proudly swept the rain by the cliffs
As it glided through the trees
Still following ever the bud
The `ahihi lehua of the vale

Farewell to you, farewell to you
The charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers
One fond embrace,
‘Ere I depart
Until we meet again

Sweet memories come back to me
Bringing fresh remembrances
Of the past
Dearest one, yes, you are mine own
From you, true love shall never depart

I have seen and watched your loveliness
The sweet rose of Maunawili
And ’tis there the birds of love dwell
And sip the honey from your lips