We look forward to “whale season” every year, the winter months when humpback whales migrate thousands of miles from summer feeding grounds in polar regions to winter breeding grounds in warmer waters closer to the equator, including Maui.
If you are vacationing on Maui November through mid April, going on a whale watch is definitely a must do.
Whale watching in waters surrounding Maui’s South and West shores offers an unforgettable experience. It is the area most visited by whales in all the Hawaiian islands. In addition to the opportunity of amazing wildlife viewing, you can also take in the views of the islands of Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe.
Choose your boat preference
There are a few options for getting out on the water and viewing whales- kayak, raft boat, sail boat or catamaran, or power boat. Generally, the larger the boat the more comfortable, the smaller the craft, the more adventurous. Note that fewer boating operations (other than kayaks, rafts and some beach launched boats) are not available in West Maui this season due to the fires that took out Lahaina town and the harbor on August 8th.
Larger boat charters are available out of Maalaea Harbor, centrally located between South and West Maui. Many of these vessels offer snorkeling and other amenities such as lunch, along with whale watching.
Here are a few recommendations:
Larger Power Boats
Pacific Whale Foundation
This company is known for its large boats and focus on marine education and the environment. Tours feature an on-board naturalist, with different charter options that include snorkeling, lunch, dinner and more on a power or power/sailing vessel. Find Pacific Whale Foundation tours here.
A great vessel when there is a chance of inclement weather, Calypso has three decks worth of seating and whale watch viewing, plus an glass bottom hull, should one of these gentle giants pass under the vessel. For those looking for stability on the ocean at a great price, check out Calypso here.
For those that like the comfort of a power boat with a smaller crowd, Maui Diamond has a lovely sunset whale watch. Find more info here.
West Maui beach launch or Maalaea Harbor
Number 1 in sailing charters for a reason, Trilogy offers top notch service and boats in Bristol condition, along with chef prepared dining and a premium bar. Choose from a beach-launched catamaran in Kaanapali, or a daytime or sunset whale watch out of Maalaea harbor. Explore Trilogy whale watching here.
Kai Kanani Sailing Charters
South Maui beach launch
Kai Kanani Sailing Charters offers a unique tour aboard their luxury sailing catamaran- right from the beach in Makena- perfect for groups looking for a more personalized experience.
Hawaii Ocean Rafting (opening December 1)
If you are looking for adventure, we ask that you support this West Maui business.
This well known company is planning a December 1 launch of their popular rigid-hull inflatable rafting tour. Due to the Lahaina fires, they will be launching from Mala Boat Ramp.
Please see the Hawaii Ocean Rafting website for parking information (no public parking at Mala).
Experiencing a whale from the ocean surface is truly unique. Hawaiian Paddle sports is ready to help you view humpback whales in a much different way- from a kayak or stand up paddle board. Learn more here.
Note there are many more boat and whale watch charter options to choose from- explore and have fun!
Places to learn more about Pacific Humpback Whales
Maui Ocean Center
The Maui Ocean Center, The Aquarium of Hawaii, has a special exhibit area dedicated to the Humpbacks of Hawaii. There is also a dome movie theater (Sphere) showing a three dimensional whale movie that is not to be missed. The Sphere is open every day from 10 AM to 4 PM, with showings every half hour. The aquarium is located at 192 Maalaea Road, Wailuku, HI 96793.
Humpbacks of Hawaii Exhibits and Sphere
Pacific Wildlife Discovery Center
One of the newest fun and educational activities on Maui, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Discovery Center is an extraordinary multimedia, interactive venue with stunning murals, photos and videos featuring native marine wildlife, a “Kids Zone” learn & play area, and over 30 exhibits on conservation, marine debris, whaling era, and Hawaiian cultural values. The center is at Whaler’s Village in West Maui, upstairs on the third floor (yes, there is a 3rd floor!).
HWDC highlights the work of Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund in protecting native flora and fauna via fieldwork, education, marine debris removal, conservation, research, and advocacy campaigns. Admission is “pay what you wish” donation.
Learn more about Pacific Wildlife Discover Center HERE.
Pacific Humpback Whale Fast Facts:
Adult Weight: 40+ Tons
Length: Up to 60 ft.
Travel Speed: 5-15 mph
Lifespan: 45 to 95 years
Diet: Krill, Small Fish But they won’t be feeding in Maui- they are here for mating, birthing and soaking up the Maui sun!
If you are in the water, you might also hear their vocalization- incredibly intricate songs lasting several minutes. These songs can be heard over great distances, and are believed to be for communication among the species.