Very close view of a fin of a humpback whale

Whale Watching on Maui

Whale Watching on Maui

I really don’t have a favourite animal because I love them all, but whales are definitely up front. Therefore, I was looking forward to do whale watching on Maui. I was afraid of not seeing any but that was unjustified because the waters around Maui were teeming with whales. Lucky me!

Please note that you cannot see whales in Maui all year round. The best time is from November to May. At that time thousands of humpback whales from the North Pacific populate Hawaiian waters during their annual winter migration. With 25 to 40 tons and an average length of 13 meters they are the fifth largest whale species worldwide.

whale watching boat with Maui in the background

Fun yes, but please respect the animals

Before I talk about our unbelievable great experience, I would like to point out something. Because whale watching has become increasingly popular and the industry has grown a lot, whale watching can be seen controversial. It can have an impact on whale behavior, for example when boats get too close to them. The US have very strict guidelines to protect the animals. For example, boats are not allowed to approach closer than 100 yards (90 m). Should the animals approach by themselves, the engines must be shut down. In addition, a boat may only approach parallel to the whales and is not allowed to drive in front of them or follow them. More information can be found here. Please make sure that you choose a provider that adheres these rules, or even better, informs you about them in the first place.

Fin of a humpback whales

Where to go on Maui

The whale watching tours on Maui usually start in the port of Lahaina. There are several providers to choose from.

We booked a two-hour morning tour with Maui Adventure Cruises. I liked the provider – the boat was relatively small with a maximum of 36 people. We also had a marine biologist on the boat who told us a lot about the humpback whales. A highlight was that we had a hydrophone on board with which we could hear the singing of the whales underwater.

Back of a humpback whale on our whale watching tour

The adventure begins

The first half of the tour was more about finding the right spot. We saw whales jumping out of the water in the distance and enjoyed the beautiful view of Maui.

Then, probably the best that could happen during whale watching, indeed happened. A group of 5 humpback whales swam towards us. We had to turn off the engine to stop disturbing the whales and prevent injuring them. The small group, consisting of a female and four males, swam around and under our boat for about 20 minutes, which also was a bit scary at times.

humpback whale on whale watching tour

Our guide explained that the males want to mate and try to win over the female – what a great experience!

As we had to stop the engine and couldn’t go on, our tour went even longer than planned. When the whales had moved on, we went directly back to Lahaina. As I said, I really enjoyed the tour very much and it was a unique experience. I also had done whale watching in Monterey, California and in Canada, but we could only see the whales from a distance. Surely a bit of luck is always part of it and you can also have bad luck in Hawaii. But since there were incredibly many whales in a relatively small area, I would say that the chances of seeing enough whales are very good here.

Whale mouth

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