10 Best Maui Whale Watching Tours From Kaanapali to Maalaea

Updated Sep 24, 2023 ,

Kaanapali Whale Watching

One of our favorite things about visiting Maui in the winter months is whale watching. The first time we visited during those months, we were “hoping” to see whales. Let me tell you, we were floored by how many whales we saw on a regular basis, even from within our condo!

If you want to level up your whale watching experience, we highly recommend a Maui whale watching tour. Our favorite is Sea Maui’s whale watching cruise, but there are a variety of options available. The types of tours you can take are as follows…

Whether you prefer the comfort of a boat, the excitement of snorkeling, the serenity of kayaking, or the thrill of rafting, there’s a tour for every traveler. Join us as we dive into these remarkable excursions, each promising breathtaking encounters with these magnificent marine giants.

Ka'anapali Whale Watching Tours

Ka'anapali, with its stunning beach, is the perfect launchpad for unforgettable Maui whale watching tours. These boat trips set sail directly from Ka'anapali Beach, offering not only thrilling whale encounters but also postcard-worthy views of West Maui’s coastline.

One thing to keep in mind is that you will be entering the boat from the beach and will have to enter the water briefly. It’s not too difficult, but it might be challenging for people with mobility issues. If that’s a concern, consider a boat tour that departs from Maalea Harbor instead.

Sea Maui’s Whale Watching Cruise

Embark on a 2-hour whale watching tour from Maui’s Ka’anapali Beach with Sea Maui. Explore a lively winter whale playground guided by a naturalist. Spot humpback whales in their cozy Maui winter retreat. Relax on a spacious catamaran with various seating, including bean bags on open nets. Enjoy unlimited drinks from the open bar as you cruise alongside these magnificent marine giants. It’s a family-friendly adventure in a premier whale watching destination.

Trilogy’s Whale Watching Tour

Set sail for a 2-hour whale watching experience with Trilogy Excursions in Maui. Indulge in a delightful breakfast or deli lunch, along with two premium drinks and endless non-alcoholic beverages. Your on-board whale expert will sprinkle your journey with captivating insights into Maui’s marine world. Kick back in style on their roomy catamaran, offering comfy seating both indoors and on deck.

Ma'alaea Whale Watching Tours

Maalea Harbor is located between West and South Maui and is an area you’ll pass if you’re staying in our condo at Valley Isle Resort. Ma’alaea boasts its own share of thrilling Maui whale watching tours that promise an up-close encounter with these majestic creatures.

Step aboard a tour boat at Ma’alaea Harbor, and you’ll soon find yourself in the midst of humpback whale activity. These majestic creatures often come remarkably close to the boats, providing an incredible sight you will never forget.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s Tour

Set sail for a 2-hour whale watching tour from Ma’alaea Harbor with Pacific Whale Foundation. Join certified marine naturalists as they unveil the secrets of humpback whales. Listen to whale songs through underwater hydrophones and gain insights into their incredible world. Plus, here’s the kicker: they guarantee whale sightings, or your next tour is on the house.

Calypso’s Whale Watching Cruise

Join Calypso Charters for a 2-hour whale watching voyage on their triple-deck power catamaran. Witness whale behaviors from great vantage points on all decks. Listen to whale songs through an underwater hydrophone and enjoy narrations about these majestic creatures. Keep your eyes peeled for tail slaps, breaches, and more. Don’t miss the onboard bar and snack area for refreshments.

Snorkel and Whale Watching Tours

Why settle for just one ocean adventure when you can have two in a single trip! Combining a snorkel tour and a Maui whale watching tour offers the best of both worlds and provides a full day of fun on the water. These tours are a fantastic way to make the most of your time in Maui.

You’ll start your day with snorkeling in some of Maui’s most pristine waters, observing vibrant coral reefs and a kaleidoscope of marine life. Then, as you bask in the beauty of the ocean, the real stars of the show arrive – humpback whales.

Pride of Maui’s Whale Watch & Snorkel

Experience the best of Maui’s waters in one epic day. Dive into snorkeling at Molokini or a nearby coral reef before setting off on a thrilling whale watching cruise in search of humpbacks. Sip your favorite beverages from the open bar, savor a scrumptious lunch, and soak up the sun. It’s the ultimate combo of ocean adventures, with expert guides sharing fascinating insights into whale behavior. Plus, sightings are guaranteed, or your next trip is on the house.

Sea Maui’s Whale Watch & Snorkel

Join Sea Maui for a thrilling half-day adventure from Ka’anapali Beach. Dive into West Maui’s crystal-clear waters, where you might spot Hawaiian green sea turtles, tropical fish, and dolphins. After snorkeling, relish a delicious onboard lunch with nonalcoholic drinks included and the option to purchase beer and cocktails. It’s the perfect combo of snorkeling and whale watching during the season. Breakfast, lunch, and snorkel gear are provided.

Kayak Whale Watching Tours

For adventurous travelers seeking an up-close and personal encounter with humpback whales, kayak Maui whale watching tours offer a unique and intimate experience. Paddle through the tranquil Maui waters as you get remarkably close to these gentle giants.

Imagine gliding atop the ocean in a kayak, the rhythmic sound of your paddle blending with the splash of waves. Then, suddenly, the unmistakable spout of a humpback whale breaks the surface, followed by a graceful breach. It’s a heart-pounding moment you’ll cherish forever.

Kayak Whale Watch & Snorkel in Kihei

Embark on an eco-friendly adventure with South Pacific Kayaks and get up close with Maui’s majestic whales. Glide through crystal-clear waters at eye level with these magnificent creatures and be an active part of your whale watching experience. As you kayak, your local guide will share island stories and folklore. After the thrilling whale encounters, plunge into the underwater world to snorkel with Hawaii’s beloved Green Sea Turtles.

West Maui Kayak Whale Watch & Snorkel

Discover West Maui’s beauty with South Pacific Kayaks on a guided kayak and snorkeling tour. Paddle along the Olowalu or Ukumehame Coastline, encountering Green Sea Turtles and tropical fish. Ideal for families, the tour covers approximately 1.5 miles of kayaking, offering snorkeling opportunities with marine life. During whale season (October to April), witness Humpback whales. Gear, snacks, and beverages are provided; just bring swimwear, a towel, and sunscreen.

Rafting Whale Watching Tours

For thrill-seekers and those looking for an adrenaline rush, rafting Maui whale watching tours offer a high-octane way to witness the wonders of Maui’s humpback whales. These expeditions take you on a thrilling ride through the ocean, putting you in the heart of the action.

As you zoom across the waves in a sturdy inflatable raft, be prepared for jaw-dropping encounters with these colossal creatures. Humpbacks are known for their acrobatics, and you might witness breaches, tail slaps, and playful antics from an incredibly close vantage point.

Redline Rafting’s Kihei Whale Watching

Join Redline Rafting for an intimate 1.5-hour whale watching expedition in Kihei, Maui. Board a swift and sturdy raft designed for ocean exploration. Your expert naturalist guide will lead you to the southern coastline, home to a vibrant humpback whale population. Watch these magnificent creatures breach, spout, and play in their warm waters. Keep an eye out for dolphins and sea turtles, too. With a limited group size of 24, it’s an up-close encounter you won’t want to miss.

Magic Merman’s Ka'anapali Whale Watching

Experience intimate whale watching with The Magic Merman, departing from Ka’anapali Beach. Skip the crowded cruises for a more personal encounter with Humpback whales in their natural habitat. With only 20 passengers, you’ll enjoy better views and photos of these majestic creatures. Following local reports, your captain ensures you get as close as possible for a fantastic wildlife experience.

Maui Whale Watching Tours FAQ

Maui Humpback Whale

What Are the Best Months to Whale Watch in Maui?

Every year, thousands of North Pacific Humpback whales (also known as kohola) migrate 3,500 miles from Alaska to Maui’s warm waters to mate, give birth, and nurse their young. Whales start to arrive in October and November, with the best time to spot them being January through March. Whale season typically ends in April, when their numbers drop significantly.

What Is Whale Watching in Maui Like?

Whale watchers will be treated to sights such as water spouts, breaching, tail slaps, fin flapping, and mothers with their calves. It’s not hard to spot whales, even with the naked eye, from many of Maui’s resorts and beaches. However, a pair of binoculars is always recommended! Additionally, The Pacific Whale Foundation hosts a week-long Maui Whale Festival every February that’s worth checking out if you’re in town during that time.

Should You Book a Whale Watching Tour?

For the best up-close sighting experience, a whale watching tour with a guide is highly recommended. In addition to getting you up close to the whales, many tours feature amenities such as a delicious lunch and an open bar.

Tours depart from many of Maui’s popular tourist destinations, including Ka'anapali Beach and Ma'alaea Harbor, typically lasting 2-4 hours. No matter how you decide to whale watch, it’s truly an amazing experience every island visitor should have at least once!

Am I Guaranteed to See Whales on a Tour?

While it’s highly likely to spot whales on Maui whale watching tours, there are no guarantees. The best time for sightings is during the peak whale season, roughly from December to March, when whales have finished migrating, are giving birth, and nursing their young. However, weather, whale behavior, and sheer luck can influence your chances.

Humpback Whale Facts

Kaanapali Whale Watching

Whales Have Been Visiting Maui for a Long Time

Archeologists have uncovered ancient carvings that point to humpback whales visiting Hawaii and the island of Maui since 1-600 AD. In addition to that, whales are also present throughout Hawaiian history, religion, and folklore. Many Native Hawaiians believe whales are aumakua, a deified ancestor that can take the form of an animal.

Whales Migrate to Mate and Give Birth

Humpback whales make the long 3,500-mile journey to Maui every year to mate and give birth to their young. It takes them around 1-2 months to make the journey that typically has whales showing up around November. Once whales birth their young, the calves will learn the necessary survival skills before making the migration back to Alaska.

Whales Are Huge!

This is probably obvious, but it deserves some context. Adult humpback whales can reach up to 60 feet in length and weigh up to 40 metric tons, the equivalent of almost five school buses! Additionally, newborn calves are around 14 feet long, weigh up to 1,500 pounds, and grow around 100 pounds a day.

Whales Are Protected Animals

Humpback whale populations have severely declined in the past due to commercial whaling, getting to as low as 700 total at one point. Since then, conservation efforts and international law have helped protect these beautiful animals, allowing them to thrive. As of 2018, worldwide population estimates of humpback whales were around 135,000 individuals.

Whales Perform a Variety of Behaviors

It’s hard to miss whales performing some sort of behavior, as actions like blowing or breaching can easily be spotted from the shore in Maui. Whales’ behavior serves a range of purposes, such as breathing, communicating, or competing with other whales. If you see two whales going at it, they’re probably fighting to mate with an available female!

Some Whales Sing a Song

If you’re lucky, when you’re swimming or snorkeling, you may be able to hear the song of a lone male humpback whale. It’s debatable as to why they sing with evidence pointing to the possibility of multiple purposes. These songs are only sung by males during the winter breeding season, can last up to 30 minutes, and can be heard as far as 6 miles away!

Justin and Katie Busa

Meet the Authors

Aloha! We’re Justin and Katie, the owners of Maui Hideaway. We’ve been visiting Hawaii together with our family for 20 years and would love to share the experience of the islands with you. Whether you’re looking for a place to stay or just some vacation advice, we’re here to help!

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