Here's what you should look for as you research options:
Experienced tour operators. Check out the number of years the company has been in business and the number of passengers it has served.
Comfortable, modern boats. Consider the age, condition and stability of the boats; whether they have bathrooms and a shaded cabin; and if their design offers good viewing for all passengers. Avoid bumpy raft rides if you are pregnant or have back problems. If the vessel is equipped with hydrophones that enable you to listen to whale songs, all the better!
Knowledgeable, enthusiastic marine naturalists. Guides who are marine biology graduates and who are involved in whale research definitely enhance the quality of the tour.
Research and educational opportunities. Some tour operators offer onboard programs for kids. It's also fun to be on a cruise that allows you to assist with whale research.
Eco-friendly options. Companies that recycle, work to reduce pollution, use alternative fuels and vessels that are designed to reduce noise and air pollution, or otherwise display concern and caring for the whale's environment earn high marks. Also look for companies that donate a portion of their proceeds to marine education, research and conservation.
You can download a guide to whale watching at the Pacific Whale Foundation's Web site. Or check out www.gohawaii.com.