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. You are almost guaranteed to see whales during those months in the Auau Channel between Maui and the islands of Molokai and Lanai. These are some of the largest gatherings of these magnificent animals making it one of the best places in the world to watch them.
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 including our favorite beach to whale watch at, Ka’anapali Beach. 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.
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 Lahaina Harbor, Ka’anapali Beach, and Ma'alaea Harbor, and typically last 2-4 hours. No matter how you decide to whale watch, it’s truly an amazing experience that every visitor to the islands should do at least once!
West Maui Whale Watching Tours
Ka’anapali Whale Watching
Relax on Sea Maui’s sailing catamaran as you depart from Ka’anapali Beach on a 2-hour whale watching tour. This tour can accommodate early risers and those who like to sleep in as it has departing times of 8 am, 11 am, and 2 pm. Light snacks are included with beer and cocktails available from their premium open bar.
Lahaina Whale Watching
Set sail from Lahaina Harbor on The Pacific Whale Foundation’s high-tech power catamaran that comes equipped with onboard hydrophones to hear the song of the whales on your tour. This tour is led by an expert marine naturalist and features a Jr. Naturalist Program for the kids. Whale sightings are guaranteed or you go again for free!
Lahaina Whale Watching and Snorkel
A whale watching snorkel tour is perfect for those active travelers looking for an adventure. Set sail from Lahaina Harbor with Quicksilver Charters on a 3.5-hour tour onboard their double-deck power catamaran that features a waterslide and jumping platform. This tour includes all snorkel gear, lunch, and non-alcoholic drinks.
South Maui Whale Watching Tours
Ma'alaea Whale Watching
Depart from Ma'alaea Harbor on Calypso’s 70ft power catamaran with indoor seating, an underwater viewing room, and an onboard hydrophone to hear the song of the whales. Calypso is a triple-deck catamaran offering some of the best views of these magnificent animals from their top deck. Water, juice, and soda are included with adult beverages available for purchase.
Ma'alaea Luxury Whale Watching
Set sail on a premier 2-hour whale watching cruise aboard the Alii Nui, a spacious luxury catamaran. This tour includes a marine naturalist with facts about whales, a hydrophone for hearing the song of the whales, appetizers, and a premium open bar.
Kihei Whale Watching and Snorkel
Kayak, whale watch, and snorkel in one of South Maui’s most pristine locations, Turtle Town, with this tour from South Pacific Kayaks. In addition to whales, you will see green sea turtles and a variety of fish in their natural habitat. Your guide will provide you with island stories, folklore, and more as you kayak through Maui’s blue ocean on your whale watching adventure.
Humpback Whale Facts
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 5 school buses! Additionally, newborn calves are born 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!
More Maui Guides
Links on this page may be affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you.