A Whale-Venture: Guide to an Unforgettable Whale Watching Experience in Maui

Imagine for a second that you’ve arrived in Hawaii for the adventure of your lifetime. Your lungs are full of the flower-scented air, the atmospheric moisture soothes your skin, and you are ready to enjoy everything that this tropical paradise has to offer.

Whether you head to the Big Island or Oahu, you’re bound to have an excellent time,  but just make sure you make a special stop on Maui.

One thing you absolutely can’t miss while in Hawaii? Whale watching! That’s because every year, thousands of humpback whales travel to Hawaii from November to May to mate, give birth, and nurse their young. About two-thirds of the population of humpback whales in the North Pacific go to Hawaii every winter. They travel some 6,000 miles!

Because of this great whale migration, Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to whale watch, and you’re almost guaranteed to see one (or hear one) if you go during the right time. And to ensure that you get the most out of your whale watching trip to Hawaii, have a look at this helpful guide that will answer all of your questions and give you useful pointers.

How to whale watch?

Boat tours

There are tons of Maui whale watching tours that you can choose from, and many believe this is the best way to see whales. While on a boat tour, your boat can’t get within 100 feet of the whales, due to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, but you might get lucky and have the whales decide to swim right by your boat, accompanied by their calves!

When considering what sort of boat tour to go on, you’ll have plenty of options available. You can go on double-decker boats, private boats, luxury boats, or boats meant for families with small children. Either way, you’re bound to have an unforgettable experience.

Shore watching

While going on a boat tour is probably the most popular way to whale watch, you can definitely do so from the beach as well. Check out the following sites where you can see whales while getting a tan on the beach:

Papawai Scenic Lookout: This lookout is very easy to access and even easier to find. Simple head down Pali Highway in the direction of Lahaina, and turn into the paved parking lot at mile marker #8.

Olowalu Area Beaches: These beaches are home to shallow water, where you can spend the day swimming, lounging, and whale watching. You can even join a kayak whale watching tour if you feel like it!

McGregor Point: Not only will you have the chance to see whales, but you’ll also get to explore the McGregor Point Lighthouse. To get there, head down the Pali Highway and turn off to the overlook in between mile markers #7 and #8.

When to whale watch?

During the summer months, humpback whales can be found eating krill and small fish up near Alaska. They do this to fuel up for their upcoming migration. Once they’ve had their fill, they head to Hawaii to give birth in the warm, shallow and protected waters. This migration is no small feat, as they travel thousands of miles to do so. And once they’ve given birth, they swim all the way back to Alaska, with their little calf by their side!

You may be aware that thanks to humans, whales haven’t always had the best time of it. In the 1960s, there was a dramatic decline in the number of humpback whales in the world’s waters due to whaling practices. Protective laws have since helped the population stabilize, but whales are still in danger of getting caught in fishing nets, ingesting too much plastic, and other environmental hazards.

That said, the whale population is healthier now, and you will be able to see them in their natural habitat if you head to Hawaii between January and March, also known as peak whale season.

Whale watching on Maui is said to be a life-changing experience. And if you go during peak whale season, between January and March, you’ll almost certainly see at least a few of these majestic creatures. When it comes to whale watching, you really can’t go wrong—book a tour, head out in a kayak, or simply scan for them while you’re relaxing on the beach. Just make sure to bring some binoculars!

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