Whale Season in Maui: Your Ultimate Guide


If you’re planning a trip to Maui, chances are you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the majestic humpback whales. Whale season in Maui runs from December through May, so there’s plenty of time to plan your trip!

Whale swimming underneath
Whale season in maui: your ultimate guide 2

In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about whale watching in Maui. We’ll guide you on where to go, when to go, and how to book an excursion with a reputable operator in the area. Read on for all the details!

Species During Whale Season Maui

The most popular species of whales seen in Maui are humpbacks. There are reported sightings of other species, such as false killer, melon-headed, and pilot whales.

Humpback Whales

The best whale-watching tours are on Maui, especially for humpbacks. Most of the whales you will see on a tour during Maui whale watching season are North Pacific humpbacks. These huge creatures come to Hawaii each winter to mate, give birth, and nurse their young in the warm waters near the islands. It is amazing to witness a mother whale frolic while the calves follow suit!

Humpback whale
Whale season in maui: your ultimate guide 3

Here are some interesting facts about these marine mammals:

  1. Humpback whales have a filter-feeding system that strains their food from the water.
  2. They can grow to be up to 52 feet long and weigh up to 80,000 pounds.
  3. They are known to each have a distinct whale song. Whale songs can last up to 30 minutes and be heard up to 20 miles away.
  4. Adult humpback whales come to the surface every 15-20 minutes to breathe. Yet, they can spend up to 45 minutes underwater on a deep dive. 
  5. Humpback whales migrate each year, traveling up to 16,000 miles each year, according to active marine research.
  6. They are predators, feeding on small fish, krill, and squid.
  7. They are considered to be an endangered species due to hunting, habitat degradation, and entanglement in fishing gear.
  8. Humpback whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

Other Whale Species

While humpbacks may be the main attraction on a Maui whale-watching trip, there are also sightings of melon-headed, pilot, and false killer whales. They are less common even in West Maui, particularly Lahaina Harbor, where watching whales is a popular tourism activity. Still, they add to the excitement and diversity of a Maui whale-watching tour.

Why Do Whales Come to Maui?

Around 12,000 whales migrate south from Alaska to Hawaii to breed, give birth, or raise calves. The warm waters of the Hawaiian Islands are ideal places for a humpback whale to give birth. A humpback whale has a gestational age between 11 – 12 months, and it will mate in Hawaii for a year. 

Whales also come to the islands to socialize and enjoy Maui’s warm waters and the beautiful coral reef. They’ll stay in Hawaii until spring, when they migrate back to Alaska.

Humback whale

humback whale

Whale season in maui: your ultimate guide 4

Tourists and certified marine naturalists jump on a spacious boat and explore the waters surrounding Maui. It is, however, important to remember that these beautiful creatures deserve our respect. Be sure to follow the guidelines set by your tour operator. Always keep a safe distance from the whales while enjoying the spectacular sight of them in their natural habitat.

Can You Swim with Whales in Maui?

You can swim with humpback whales during whale-watching season. It is important to note that it is ILLEGAL to swim too close to the animals. At least a 100-yard distance must be observed. This applies to humpback whales in Hawaii, even during whale-watching season and on Maui whale-watching tours. A humpback whale’s safety and well-being must be the top priority at any time. Approaching or disturbing it can put the animal at risk of being harmed.

The best way to experience whale watching in Maui is through a reputable whale-watching tour operator. They know how to safely observe these impressive creatures and provide awesome photo opportunities without causing any harm.

What Month is Best for Maui Whale Watching?

Whale sightings begin in October and November and end in May. Meanwhile, peak months for Maui whale watching are January, February, and March. It’s when the whale populations are at their highest. 

Whale jumping out of water

This doesn’t mean that sightings can be guaranteed. Booking a two-hour excursion with a reputable operator increases the likelihood of a sighting and an intimate experience with the animals. Some operators may also offer a free tour if you are out of luck. 

Is Maui Cold in April?

April is a great month for Maui whale watching because it tends to be warm and sunny. The average temperature in April is 82 degrees Fahrenheit, with lows averaging at 68 degrees.

However, as with any tropical destination, there may be occasional rain showers or brief periods of cooler temperatures. It’s always a good idea to pack a light jacket or sweater for nights and early mornings on the chance of lower temperatures. We also recommend it for a late afternoon tour.

Overall, though, Maui in April offers beautiful weather and prime conditions for close encounters with the animals. So, come soak up some sun while on your dream vacation, spotting these amazing creatures off the coast of West Maui! And don’t forget to grab your swimsuit and sunscreen.

What Time of Day is Best to Watch Whales in Maui?

The best time to whale watch in Maui is typically early morning. During this time, the water is calm, and the whales are most active. However, whale activity can vary depending on the day. It’s important to listen to your guide or onboard naturalist. Follow the recommendations for a great experience.

Keep in mind that whale-watching tours often last several hours, so be prepared for a full day out on the water. It’s also a good idea to bring sunscreen, snacks, and comfortable clothing for a successful time outdoors.

What is the Best Hawaiian Island for Whale Watching?

A bird's-eye view of the molokini crater during whale season in maui

There are whales all over Hawaii, and you can spot them with greater success with the help of whale-watching tours. However, the whale-watching experience on Maui will definitely be the finest. This is especially true if you want to see humpback whales.

It’s because they migrate into warm shallow waters in the Auau Channel — the waterway between Maui’s neighboring islands of Lāna‘i, Moloka‘i, and Kaho‘olawe that provide the ideal habitat of waters less than 600 feet in depth. While in Hawai‘i, humpback whales engage in the breeding cycle, including seeking a mate, mating, giving birth, and nursing their newborn calves.

The Island of Maui is regarded as the one of the most beautiful whale-watching destinations on the globe. This is what you should try to check out a whale-watching tour when you are staying west side of Maui (near Lahaina and Kaanapali) or south side (near Kihei and Wailea).

Is Whale Watching Better in Maui or Oahu?

Both Oahu and Maui offer whale-watching tours, but Maui is generally considered to have the best whale-watching experience. This is due to the location of the Auau Channel and its high population of humpback whales. That being said, whale sightings can never be guaranteed, and both islands offer unique experiences for whale watching.

It ultimately comes down to personal preference and availability of tours. Additionally, whale season in Maui tends to run a bit longer than in Oahu. Scheduling your whale-watching tour accordingly may also factor into your decision.

How Can I Get from Honolulu to Maui for the Whale Season?

If you are looking to enjoy whale season in Maui, there are several options for traveling from Honolulu. You can take a short flight on one of the major airlines, board an inter-island ferry, or take a bus or shuttle service. The specific mode of transportation will depend on your personal preferences and budget. It’s also important to plan ahead and book your tickets in advance.

Flights and ferry seats can fill up quickly during peak travel times. For more information and to compare your options, it’s a good idea to check with your chosen tour operator.

How Much Does It Cost to Whale Watch in Maui?

If you choose to go on a boat trip and don’t want to watch humpback whales alone from the shore, the prices may vary.

A mother whale and her calf frolic along the maui waters

Some larger vessels offer Maui whale-watching tours specials or discounts for whale watchers. There is even a snorkeling tour that may come with a package. Smaller boats or rafts with marine naturalists and intimate experiences usually run between $100 and $200 each.

Is Whale Watching Worth it in Maui?

Many people would argue that whale watching in Maui is definitely worth it. The opportunity to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Plus, whale-watching tours often include sightings of other animals, such as spinner dolphins and sea turtles, creating a well-rounded ocean excursion.

However, it’s important to note that whale watching should always be done responsibly and with respect for the animals’ wellbeing. Book with a reputable company that follows proper whale-watching guidelines. The best tours practice ethical wildlife encounters.

How Long is a Whale Watching Tour in Maui?

A whale-watching tour in Maui takes about 4-5 hours on average. However, the duration can vary depending on the specific tour provided and the weather conditions. It’s important to listen to your guide and follow their recommendations.

What Are the Best Whale Watching Destinations?

The west side and south of Maui (Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kihei, Wailea) is the best place for whale watching. The west coast is known for its shallow banks and sheltered sea waters (protected from Maui’s winds), which attract humpback whales.

Aerial view of lahaina, west maui, during whale season

From the shore, you can often see breaching or tail slapping along the coast near Lahaina Harbor or Black Rock.

If you prefer a closer encounter with the whales, there are several reputable companies that offer boat tours off the west side of Maui. These tours take you out to deeper waters where the whales are more active.

If you’re looking for more information about the North Pacific Humpbacks, make sure to pay a visit to The Pacific Whale Foundation website for more info!

Are There Whale Sightings from the Shore?

You can see whales from a boat or right from the shore. If you’d like to get close to the whales, go on a boat tour. If you don’t want to sail, go to the west side of Maui.

From the beach, it’s typically a good idea to bring binoculars. You can also check out the popular whale-watching lookout points, such as the Nakalele Blowhole Lookout or Honolua Bay Lookout.

What Other Animals Can You See During Whale Season in Maui?

In addition to whales, Maui also has a diverse array of marine life. You may see dolphins, sea turtles, and various types of tropical fish. Humpback whales are not the only type of whale that can be seen off the coast of Maui.

As mentioned earlier, other species, such as pilot whales and Bryde’s whales, may also be spotted during this time. In addition, Maui is home to many different types of shorebirds, seabirds, and native Hawaiian birds. On land, you may encounter mongoose, axis deer, and wild goats.

A green sea turtle during whale season in maui, hawaii

Here’s a list of the interesting species you definitely need to see in Maui:

  1. Humpback whales

  2. Hawaiian green sea turtles

  3. Spinner dolphins

  4. Pueo or Hawaiian owls

  5. Mongooses

  6. Nene geese

  7. Hawaiian monk seals

  8. Manta rays and Spotted eagle rays

  9. Jackson chameleons

  10. Sharks (white tip reef sharks are most common!)

Tips for Whale Watching in Maui

How can you prepare for the ultimate whale-watching experience in Maui? Here are some great tips you should remember before embarking on an excursion:

1. Dress Appropriately for the Weather and Ocean Conditions

Visiting Maui to whale watch is a dream for most! The opportunity to spot these giant creatures in their natural habitat is a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

However, it’s important to remember that whale watching involves navigating open ocean waters. It’s crucial to dress appropriately for the weather and ocean conditions. Wearing layers of clothes will keep you warm on cooler days. Meanwhile, waterproof outerwear is a must in case of sudden rain or waves crashing onto the boat deck.

A hat and a pair of sunglasses will protect you from the sun’s powerful rays reflecting off the water. It’s also a good idea to bring along sunscreen and a towel. Taking precautions will ensure that your whale-watching adventure is both safe and enjoyable.

2. Be Respectful of the Whales and Their Environment

A whale breeching the surface and birds during whale season in maui

When observing whales in their natural habitat, it’s important to remember that we are visitors in their world. It’s crucial to adhere to all guidelines set forth by your tour operator. This may include maintaining a safe distance from the whales (at least 100 yards) and refraining from touching or feeding them.

Also, be conscious of your impact on the surrounding ocean environment. Make sure you dispose of any trash properly. You should also avoid touching or disturbing any marine life or coral reefs.

By respecting the whales and their surroundings, we can ensure that future generations will also have the opportunity to witness these magnificent giants.

3. Have Patience and an Open Mind

Spotting many whales involves both luck and skill. Our experienced captains and naturalists have the knowledge and expertise to navigate to areas frequented by whales. However, it is up to the whales themselves as to when and where they will appear.

It’s important to keep an open mind and go with the flow. Sometimes a whale may only be visible for a brief moment, or you may spot multiple whale sightings during your excursion.

Have patience and embrace any unexpected encounters, as these moments can often turn out to be the most memorable ones.

By following these tips and staying aware of safety precautions, you’re sure to have an incredible whale-watching experience in Maui.

Are There Whale-Watching Tour Operators in Maui?

When it comes to booking a whale-watching tour, you’ll have no shortage of options. There are many reputable operators in the Maui area that offer both boat-based and land-based tours. We recommend doing some research ahead of time and check out WildVoice to find a reputable operator that can enhance your whale-watching experience.

Keep in mind that humpbacks are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species Acts. Therefore, it’s illegal to approach the whales at 100 yards or swim too closely with them. WildVoice tour operators and diving instructors offer unique encounters with wildlife while adhering to regulations.

Whale Watching Tours in Maui for Small and Big Groups!

At WildVoice, you have plenty of options to choose from. We offer some of the best whale watching tours, Maui boat charters, private charters, and Molokini Crater snorkeling tours. You can also opt for freediving and scuba diving training and courses. They are perfect for individuals, families, and even large groups. Each tour is headed by a marine naturalist. So, you can witness up close whale and dolphin species, seals, tropical turtles, and other animals, as well as learn about them!

We’re excited to take you out of Lahaina Harbor, Kihei, or Maalea Harbor for some of Maui’s greatest ocean experiences and the opportunity to spot whales! Be sure to check out the website or give us a call to inquire about tours and inclusions.

What are you waiting for?

Grab your camera, pack some snacks, and book an unforgettable adventure today!

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