Whale Watching in Maui


“Official Whale Season” in Maui, Hawaii is from December to March and if you climb aboard just about any kind of whale watching vessel at tha time of year, your chances of whale spotting are excellent. So, grab you cameras and binoculars and head for the open ocean out of Lahaina or Ma’alaea Bay for a whale of a time as you watch the seasonal humpbacks frolic In the waters surrounding Maui.

You can whale watch from an adventure seeking zodiac vessel, a sleek catamaran or even a double-decker sightseeing boat. Make your choice based on your level of comfort. Prone to seasickness? Stay away from the zodiacs. A little lunch with your whale watch? Opt for a luxury catamaran or double decker boat. The most comfort? The double decker boats offer both inside and outside viewing areas if you wish to avoid direct sunlight and some are even air conditioned, if heat is a problem. If this is your first whale watch you may want to pick an outing of only 2 hours just in case you do not enjoy the experience.

Not ready to go out to sea of watch the whales? Several excellent look outs on dry land along Maui’s south and west shores include; Makena, Wailea, Kihei, Ma’alea, Olowalu, Lahaina, Ka’anapali and Kapalu. Be cautious when driving in these areas, many drivers are known to come to an unexpected halt in the middle of the road when spotting a whale. Better to pull over to the side and avoid an accident.

What’s my favorite? I have not yet discovered a whale watching cruise I did not enjoy. That said, my preference is for a smaller vessel that puts you closer to the water and the whales, a zodiac in Maui can put you close to the action. The sailing calm of a catamaran ( is a serene experience, punctuated with “oohs” and ‘ahs” as the whales break the surface. And the double decker boats (Pacific Whale Foundation)can elevate you farther above the water surface providing a more panoramic view.

Humpbacks exhibit a variety of behaviors that should be visible in one form oar another from both boats and shoreline lookouts. 

Look for whale “blows”, the cloud of water vapor produced above the whale’s head when it exhales. Most whales will “blow” 4 to 5 times in succession before taking a deeper dive.


This vapor, part water, part air, and residue of material in the whale’s nasal cavity is ejected from, the blowhole at up to 300 miles per hour.

Pectoral fin slapping is a very common behavior, especially among the young calves that are practicing hard to learn this maneuver and build up muscle memory.

Head lunging is also common at this time of the year when male whales are competing for the attention of a female whale. One whale will bring its’ massive head down onto another’s in an attempt to dissuade the other male. These seemingly violent behaviors are not a battle to the death, just showing off their prowess.

Everyone hopes to see a dramatic “breach” when the whale launches itself from the water and “pirouettes” in the air. An amazing feat for a 40-50 ton creature. Some experts believe this is a way that whales shake parasites from their skin.


Humpback whales are curious, clever, agile and resourceful creatures that are not timid about approaching humans and their vessels, and will often go out of their way to spend time with a whale watching boat. It is, however, illegal to get closer than a 100 yards to a humpback.

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