The Ultimate Guide to Whale Season on Maui

Who Are They?

Most of Hawai`i’s whales are humpbacks, one of the most endangered species in the world. But it’s also possible to spot endangered false killer whales here, as well as melon-headed, pygmy, and short-finned pilot whales.

Where and When Do They Visit?

The waters around the Hawaiian Islands have been declared a Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and the `Au`au Channel between Maui, Moloka`i, and Lāna’i happens to be one of the best places in the world for whale-watching. It’s especially easy to spot them from land near Ma`alaea Bay, but virtually any part of south or west Maui will do. Humpback numbers and activity peak here between mid-January and March.

Why Do They Migrate to Hawai`i?

During the summer months, humpbacks feed on up to 3,000 pounds of small fish and crustaceans per day in the North Pacific, building up stores of blubber so they don’t need to feed at all during their winter journey. Then they shift their focus to breeding, coming to the temperate waters of tropical areas like Maui to mate and give birth.

Fun Facts About Humpback Whales

  • Adults can reach 45 to 50 feet in length, weighing in at 25 to 40 tons!
  • Females tend to be larger in size than males.
  • Newborn humpbacks are generally about 13 to 16 feet long.
  • Calves remain with their mothers for six to 10 months after birth, so it’s often possible to recognize mom-and-calf pairs traveling through our waters.
  • Adult humpbacks may be able to hold their breath for as long as 45 minutes, but calves need to surface for air every few minutes.
  • Calves often put on a show not only by slapping the water with their flippers, but by breaching – leaping out of the water!
  • Males compete for females’ attention by engaging in behaviors like blowing bubbles, thrashing their tail/body, chasing, and vocalizing/singing.
  • It’s not uncommon to hear whale songs if you’re underwater here during the winter months – and if you’re paddling or kayaking, you may even be able to hear them above the ocean’s surface!

The Best Ways to See Our Winter Visitors

Companies like PacWhale Eco-Adventures and Trilogy offer a variety of whale-watching tours embarking from Kā`anapali, Lahaina, and Ma`alaea. And companies like Hawaii Ocean Rafting feature excursions with an eye-level view of the humpbacks!

Interested in seeing the whales from an entirely different perspective? Book a flight with Air Maui, Blue Hawaiian, or Sunshine Helicopters, to really get a sense of the humpbacks’ incredible size from nose to tail.

If you’d rather keep your feet firmly planted on land, spend some time at the 3-D Sphere at Maui Ocean Center. This unique experience gives visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in humpbacks’ lives, using below-the-surface footage from Maui’s waters during past whale seasons.

And finally, the Pacific Whale Foundation sponsors the Maui Whale Festival (a series of humpback-focused events and activities) throughout the month of February. If you’re interested in seeing these enormous, impressive creatures, this is truly the place to be – and the time to be here!

Want to Know More?

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about life in the Hawaiian Islands. And of course I’m always here if you’d like to talk specifics about Maui real estate!

Leslie Mackenzie Smith, REALTOR(S), RS-42147

Comments (0) Show CommentsHide Comments (Remember)

Cool. Add your comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private, this form is secure and we never spam you.

More Articles from Hawaii Life