Maui is one of the best places in the world for Whale Watching. These magnificent creatures migrate south from Alaska to Hawaii every single year. The ‘Au ‘au channel off the coast of Maui sees some of the greatest numbers of these whales in all of Hawaii! The warm, protected waters between the other islands create an ideal location for the humpbacks to mate and give birth to their calves. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 humpback whales travel from Alaska to visit the Hawaiian Islands every winter. They can frequently be seen breaching out of the water making a huge splash. They can also be seen slapping their tails and fins repeatedly on the surface of the water. These aerial performances are not observed in any other species of whale. If you listen closely underwater while swimming or snorkeling, you can sometimes hear them “singing” or communicating. Their song is carried underwater from miles away and its a truly magical experience.
During the winter, you can pretty much see whales from any of our catamaran sail tours but we do have two trips that focus specifically on just whale watching.
Our Lahaina Whale Watching tour operates December 15 – March 31 out of Lahaina Harbor. The trip is from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. – Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. Enjoy your morning coffee from the deck and help the captain and crew keep a lookout for these beautiful creatures to break the surface of the water. Sailing the channel between the islands of Maui, Lanai’ and Molokai usually provides a nice sunny morning with light trade winds. We usually recommend sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen. Reef safe sunscreen options are also provided on the boat.
Our Ma’alaea Whale Watching Tour operates December 15- March 31 as well out of Ma’alaea Harbor. This trip is from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays.
Set sail from the harbor in the afternoon trade winds and join the captain and crew as everyone keeps a lookout for whales. Enjoy a variety of refreshments including wine and local beer. Ma’alaea is known for strong winds, making it a very fun and exhilarating sail, this trip is definitely an adventure!
What you can expect to see from the whales on the tours;
- Blow – This is the most common way to spot a whale. When a whale exhales, the air is pushed out of their blowhole located on the top of their head. This spray shoots up from the water’s surface and creates a mist that is visible from a good distance away. On average, adult humpbacks hold their breath for around 15-20 minutes, but they can hold their breaths for up to an hour. Calves on the other hand can only hold their breath for about 3-5 minutes.
- Spy Hop – When a whale rises vertically out of the water with its head. Some people believe this is the whales way of seeing the action above the surface.
- Fluke Slap – When a whale slaps its fluke (tail) on the surface of the water.
- Pec Slap – When a whale slaps one of their pecs (fins) on the surface of the water.
- Tail Dive – When a whale dives down, also known as a fluke dive, and you see the tail going straight down into the water. This is usually the last you see of a whale for 3-10 minutes as it dives down.
- Breach – This is the most spectacular aerial show seen from the humpbacks whales. They use their tails to completely throw their body out of the water and they make a huge splash on the surface.
- Mugging – We are sometimes fortunate enough to have a whale come right upside along the boat. This is called “mugging” and is one of the most intimate encounters we are blessed with as the whale displays its innate curiosity by circling the boat and sometimes rubbing against it for a spectacular show!