Discovering The Nakalele Blowhole

The trail leading to Nakalele Blowhole is approximately 8 miles north of Kapalua. You will you are there when you see the 38.5 mileage marker. Park your car near the marker and make your way to the blowhole. The trail is only 0.8 miles long and has light to moderate traffic. If the water shooting out of the rocks below doesn’t give it away, you will know you have reached the blowhole when you see the famous heart-shaped cut out in one of the rocks that face it.

Want to discover more of Maui’s coastline? Book our Whale Watch Tour or Sunset Dinner Cruise and have the experience of a lifetime.

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Top 10 Things to Do on New Year’s Eve on Maui

The holidays on Maui are a special time of year. While you probably won’t have white Christmas (unless you’re up on Haleakala during a rare snow day), another holiday tradition, fireworks on New Year’s Eve can be had. Beyond fireworks, there are fun events for couples, families and solo travelers. Here are the top 10 things to do on New Year’s Eve on Maui.

  1. Fireworks in Wailea
    While it’s not widely publicized (parking can be a nightmare), this is the biggest and best fireworks show of the year on Maui. If you’re not already in Wailea, make your way down to Polo Beach or any of the beaches along Wailea’s shore, grab a blanket and enjoy the show at exactly midnight.
  2. Sunset Dinner Cruise
    While it won’t take you to midnight, a sunset dinner cruise is a great way to set the table for a relaxing, Maui New Year’s celebration. Featuring a three-course meal with table-side service, an onboard mixologist for drinks, live music and dancing and of course, Maui’s stunning sunset, an evening at sea, followed by partying on shore with all of your friends and family is always a great way to ring in the new year. If you use the promo code VIP20 when booking here, you’ll save $10.
  3. The Summit at Haleakala
    Want to get away from it all and spend the night with a zillion stars (and hopefully slightly less people than that), try heading up to Haleakala and taking in the natural beauty of Maui’s biggest treasure. Remember Y2K? That night, they had to close the summit because there were rumors of cults heading up there to sacrifice virgins. Hopefully that won’t be the case when ringing in 2019!
  4. Drums of the Pacific Luau, Lahaina
    Is there a more Maui way of spending New Year’s Eve than a luau? Like the Sunset Dinner Cruise listed above, this special event won’t take you right up to midnight, allowing you to share the countdown with friends and family, or if you’re old like us, in bed. For this special night, the luau, on top of their standard Hawaiian cuisine buffet, is serving prime rib and roasted potatoes.
  5. Gatsby-Style Party at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
    Head back to ’20s (wow, that’s nearly 100 years ago!) and don your tuxes and flapper dresses and swing your way into 2019 at this Great Gatsby-themed party. The event features live music by Hawaii’s own, Kahulanui, hors d’oeuvres and a premium open bar. It’s not cheap ($285 per person), but if you want to class it up, this probably your best bet on Maui.
  6. Party with Mick Fleetwood, Lahaina
    Yes, that Mick Fleetwood, founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Fleetwood Mac. He’s back on the Rock, taking a break from his current tour and will be performing at his popular restaurant Fleetwood’s on Front Street in Lahaina. The party starts at 6:30 and live music featuring Maui’s most popular bands and Mick himself, will lead you up to a traditional New Year’s toast. This party is another pricey one starting at $500 per person.
  7. Light Your Own Fireworks
    Fireworks went on sale on December 17 and will available through the 31st. But this being Hawaii, it’s not quite as easy as running down to the store and picking up a pack of sparklers. There are some restrictions that you should be aware of. First, you must purchase a $25 permit (here are the details). The permit will allow you to fire up to 5,000 firecrackers. You can purchase multiple permits if you plan on setting off more than that. Once you have your fireworks and permit, you have a four-hour window, between 9:00 PM and 1:00 AM on New Year’s Eve to set them off. If you go this route, have fun and be safe!
  8. Dinner at Maui Chef’s Table, Wailuku
    Typically, Maui’s Chef Table at the Plantation is a monthly event featuring local produce and proteins prepared by Maui’s top chefs and visiting celebrity chefs. This year, for New Year’s Eve, the Maui Chef’s Table is holding a special event that you won’t want to miss. Like the Sunset Dinner Cruise, this event will not take you to midnight. But if you’re a foodie, this will be one New Year’s Eve you won’t forget.
  9. Wailuku Shingon Mission New Year’s Service
    Want to slow things down and ring in the New Year with a more spiritual vibe? This TINY temple is holding a New Year’s service at 11:45 PM. The public is welcome, so start the year fresh with blessings for health, happiness and prosperity.
  10. Bill Maher at the MACC, Kahului
    OK, we’re cheating. The Bill Maher event actually takes place on December 30th, but this has become one of Maui’s most popular annual events. For the eight straight year, Maher is celebrating the new year with his friends. In past years, he’s been joined on stage by the likes of Sean Penn, David Spade, Jeffrey Ross, Margaret Cho and Bob Saget. Even Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder showed up one year to play a surprise acoustic set.

Hawaii Ocean Project is offering a full-day of whale watches on the 31st.

By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the island of Lanai? Well you can! Just use the promo code VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.

10 Maui Money Saving Tips

Living on Maui ain’t cheap. But visiting Maui is even more expensive. Still, we locals know a thing or two about saving money on Maui. Here are 10 money-saving tips for you to get the most out of your visit to Maui.

  1. One of the top tourist attractions on Maui during the busy winter months is whale watching. While watching whales from the shore is free, if you want to get out into the ocean, book Hawaii Ocean Project’s “Early Bird” whale watch special at 7:30 AM and take the normal $39.95 tour price down to just $24.99. There’s more than just the price advantage in booking this trip. First, parking in Lahaina can be a bit challenging, but that early, you’ll have your choice of free parking spots. The boats also tend to be less crowded on the 7:30 trip. Finally, the early morning air is much cooler than a mid-afternoon tour. Really, you can’t go wrong on any of the whale watch tours, but for the most bang for your buck, book the Early Bird special.
  2. Instead of a high-end resort with their hidden “resort fees,” consider booking a condo or house through Airbnb or VRBO. In addition to saving on nightly room charges, you will also save big on meals because you’ll have your own kitchen for preparing meals. Take a trip to Costco when you land (located 2 minutes from the airport) and stock your kitchen for the week.
  3. Of course, if you’ve traveled this far to reach Maui, you probably want to experience Maui’s fantastic local foods. Maui’s food truck scene is absolutely busting out. You can find food truck round-ups all over the island. Our favorites are near the Costco and in Kihei behind the Azeka shopping center. But drive long enough, and you’re likely to see food trucks on random streets and in shopping mall parking lots. Here’s a look at our favorite foodand shrimp trucks. Another way to experience inexpensive food is Happy Hour. Nearly every restaurant on the island has Happy Hour specials. Here’s a look at some of the best Happy Hour deals in Lahaina and the west side and Kihei/Wailea.
  4. Most likely, the main reason you’re visiting Maui is to spend time at our amazing beaches. We have beaches for all occasions… and they’re all free! “Private” beaches are not a thing here on Maui. Every beach, even the ones fronting the high end resorts are free and open to the public. No, those fancy loungers aren’t free to everyone, but laying your towel in the sand sure is.
  5. Speaking of beaches, snorkeling is another free-to-inexpensive activity. Again, the beaches around Maui are free. So no matter where you are, you have access to some free, wonderful snorkeling. Renting gear will cost you some coin, but you also have the option of going to Costco and buying snorkel gear. If you’ve checked luggage, you can take it home with you for another adventure. You can also donate your used gear to local shelters or the Boys and Girls Clubs. Here’s our guide to the best places to snorkel on Maui. Or for an even more exciting snorkel adventure, book a Lanai Snorkel and Dolphin Excursion and save 10% using the discount code at the bottom of this article. On this trip, you’ll be served breakfast, barbecue lunch and snorkel at two locations. Along the way, you’ll probably see dolphins and, during the winter months, whales!
  6. Another free outdoor activity is hiking. Maui has some of the most beautiful hikes you will encounter. Whether you want to hike in the mountains or take a nature walk along beach paths, Maui has you covered. Here are our favorite Maui hikes, broken down by hiking ability from easy to challenging. Your only cost is the price of gas. Though, if you plan on hiking in Haleakala National Park, there is an entrance fee.
  7. If you’re going to hike in Haleakala National Park, you need to get a pass for $25. The good news is the pass is good for three days, so use your days wisely! It’s about two hours from Lahaina to the summit (depending on that westside traffic) so you may only want to go for one day. But, once you pay for the pass, everything in the park is free. If you want to see the sunrise, you’ll need to make a reservations and fight massive crowds. Instead, we recommend heading up to the summit for the sunset. The sunset is just as beautiful as the sunrise, but with a quarter of the crowd size. Plus, once the sun is down, you’ll be able stargaze like a pro. We swear, you will never see so many stars.
  8. We alluded to this earlier, but resort fees really suck. They tend to run from $25 to $40 a night. For this, whether or not you use the “free” towels or “free” wifi, you’re going to be stuck paying the fee. The other place the resorts stick you is on parking. Most places tend to charge between $20 – $35 a night to park your car. Again, if you have a car, this is nearly inescapable. So to get around it, you can try only renting cars on the days you need them, for example, a trip on the Road to Hana. The rest of trip, you can use Uber/Lyft or cabs. Uber and Lyft drivers can now pick up and drop off riders airport. The other not so hidden cost of a rental car is gas. Gas prices on Maui are about $1.00 per gallon higher than the mainland, usually hovering around $4.00 a gallon. But if you go to Costco, you’ll save around $.75 a gallon.
  9. Don’t be afraid to hit up the ABC Stores. They may seem like tourist traps, but if you stay away from the potato chips and candy, they actually have some great deals. If you’re lucky enough to be near an ABC with a kitchen, the food is pretty good and cheap. The t-shirts and beach towels are about as cheap as you’ll find.
  10. While $99.95 per person for a Hawaii Ocean Project Sunset Dinner Cruise may sound spendy, when you break it down, it’s not. For your money, you’ll spend an enchanting evening out on the Maui Princess, Maui’s largest and most comfortable luxury yacht with guaranteed roof-top seating. Your three-course dinner is served by professional waitstaff to your table. There’s a mixologist on board to whip up your favorite Hawaiian cocktails and beers. There’s also live entertainment and dancing as day turns to night. In other words, you aren’t just paying $100 for dinner, you’re paying for an unforgettable, magical evening. Have kids? Well children aged 4 – 12 are just $59.95 and under 4 are free.

By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the island of Lanai? Well you can! Just use the promo code VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.

Maui Whale Watch Guide – Why Humpbacks Breach

Maui Whale Watch Guide – Why Humpbacks Breach

When you join us on a whale watch tour on Maui, breaching is one of the common actions you’re likely to see. Breaching is when a whale throws its entire body out of the water. It’s an awesome to sight to witness, to be sure. But why do humpback whales breach?

Until recently, most whale experts believed there wasn’t one reason. It’s kind of like asking, why do humans run? We run for play, exercise, to escape danger, etc. Among the reasons scientists believed whales breached were for communication, a way to warn others of impending danger, as a way to stun prey, and as a sort of mating ritual competition between males.

However, in November, 2016, an article titled “Evidence for the functions of surface-active behaviors in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)” was published in the Marine Mammal Science journal. The authors of the study concluded, with some certainty, the main reason for breaching (and tail/pectoral slapping) is communication.

Simply put in human terms, an acoustic sound like a drum travels further than the voice, which is why cultures once beat on drums to communicate from village to village. So while whales can sing beautifully, in order to contact other whales further away, they need to beat on the water to get the message out.

As for the other reasons whales breach, while those listed above may be partially true, it never fully made sense to scientists why whales breached in Hawaii. While the humpbacks do mate here, they don’t eat. That’s right, they fast the entire time they’re in Hawaii. They also don’t have any natural predators here. So breaching to stun their prey or warn of danger seems dubious, at best. Especially when you consider how much energy a whale expends to throw 30 tons of body out of the water while they are fasting.

So next time you see a humpback whale leaping out of the ocean or slapping its fins, it isn’t just for show. They’re probably communicating with other whales miles away.

Maui Whale Watch Guides:

By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the island of Lanai? Well you can! Just use the promo code VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.

Everything You Need To Know About Humpback Whale Migration

Understanding Humpback Whale Migration

Every winter, the thousands of humpback whales that migrate to Hawaii are a source of wonder and interest among both island visitors and residents. For those who keep an eye on the blue horizon, the whales can put on quite a show with their acrobatic antics. Their great size and charismatic behavior are just a couple of reasons why our Maui whale watch tours are so popular. Although there are still some mysteries remaining as to the lives they lead below the waves, scientists have discovered many fascinating things about our humpback neighbors.

Humpbacks are found throughout the world’s oceans, although their numbers dipped dangerously low as a result of the whaling that started in the 1800s. It’s estimated that as few as 1,000 were left in 1965. Now, there are an estimated 23,000 north pacific humpbacks alone. Of this number, about 60%, or 12,000 – 14,000, migrate to Hawaii.

An interesting fact about the North Pacific humpbacks are the three somewhat distinct populations they form. The eastern stock migrates between Northern California in summer and Mexico in winter. The western stock summers in the Aleutian Islands and moves on to the islands south of Japan in winter. The central stock can be found here in Hawaii in the winter after spending their summers in southeast Alaska and the Gulf of Alaska. The whales aren’t too strict about their migrations though, as some mixing on the breeding grounds has been observed in each of the three groups, which keeps the gene pool nice and diverse.

Hawaii’s waters provide such an important habitat for these whales that Congress designated the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in 1992, where the whales would be protected as an endangered species by both federal and state law. Luckily for us, one of the two most popular places for whales to congregate is in the waters of Maui County, meaning the area between Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Kaho’olawe. The other popular spot for the whales is to the southwest of Molokai. As their numbers continue to strengthen, they have made progress spreading out toward the other Hawaiian islands.

Our whales from Alaska leave their feeding grounds in the fall and swim almost non-stop until reaching their breeding grounds in Hawaii, which can take between 6-8 weeks. At about 3,000 miles each way, it’s one of the longest mammal migrations, which is why it takes them so long despite their epic size.

Marine scientists have made some interesting discoveries about Hawaii’s arriving whales. Namely, who arrives when. Nursing mothers arrive around mid-November, generally being the first on the scene. The next to arrive are juveniles and newly weaned yearlings, followed by a surge of adult males and females. The last to arrive are pregnant females, who feed in Alaska as long as possible before beginning their migration.

If you’d like to observe these awe-inspiring giants in their natural habitat, you can book your tour at our Maui whale watch tour page. If you need our assistance, you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!

More Maui Whale Watch Guides:

By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the island of Lanai? Now you can! Just use the promo code VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.

A Visual Guide To Common Humpback Whale Behavior

A Visual Guide To Common Humpback Whale Behavior

There is nothing more exciting than seeing a 30-ton whale throwing itself out of the ocean like a spinner dolphin on one of our whale watches. Luckily for you, whales have more than just one trick up their fins! Here is a visual guide to seven common humpback whale actions you may see here in Hawaii.

Breach
When you head out on a whale watch, this is the action you most want to see. A breach occurs when a humpback launches itself fully out of the ocean. Here is an explanation for why humpback whales breach.

Tail Slap
We love the tail slap, also known as lobtailing. A tail slap is, literally, when the humpback slaps the water with its tail in a straight up and down motion. It seems easy enough, but to do it, the whale needs to lift its rear out of the water in order to create the force needed to slap its tail down. This is different than the tail throw…

Tail Throw
Also known as a peduncle throw, you don’t often see these on Maui, but when you do, they’re spectacular. A tail throw occurs when a whale turns to its side and violently lifts its tail out of the water and slaps it down in a sideways action. Since it’s believed tail throws primarily occur during mating, this action is very rare here in Hawaii.

Pec Slap
A pec slap occurs when a whale raises its pectoral fins (side fins) vertically, then slaps it down into the water. We like to think of pec slaps as a whale’s way of waving “hello.” We would be wrong, but it’s fun to dream!

Chin Slap
Nobody likes to be slapped in the face, but humpbacks do enjoy raising their heads out of the water, then slapping them down. It takes a great amount of strength to raise the upper half of their bodies out of the water and slap them down.

Spyhopping
Humpbacks do this to look out over the horizon. Kind of like gophers peeking their heads out of their holes, humpbacks lift their heads out of the water and look around. If you see a humpback doing this, it’s probably looking right back at you!

Blowing
“Thar she blows!” The famous pirate cry is the most recognizable and common action you’ll see on a Maui whale watch. What you may not know, however, is that humpbacks do not blow water out of their blowholes. Instead, they are blowing out the hot air and mucus that collects in their lungs. When this warm mixture hits the cooler outside air the condensation it creates looks like a spigot of water.

More Maui Whale Watch Guides:

By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the island of Lanai? Well, you can! Just use the promo code VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.

Whale Watching on Maui Q & A

Whale Watching on Maui Q & A

When is whale watching season on Maui?
Unofficially, whale watching season runs from December 1 – April 30. But the whales came early this year and we’re already running Whale Watch tours!

Where is the best place to see the whales?
Well, we may be a teeny bit biased, but the best place to see the whales is from one of our whale tour boats. We will get you as close to the whales as is safely possible – safe for the whales and you, that is, on the largest and most stable boats in Maui.

What types of whales come through Hawaii?
North Pacific Humpback Whales

What do they look like?
They are primarily grey, with some areas of white. Oh, and they’re big. BIG. The North Pacific Humpbacks are the fifth largest whale species on the planet and can grow to 60-feet long and weigh between 25 – 40 tons.

Why do they come to Hawaii?
Good question. They come to mate, give birth and nurture their calves. Hawaii is the only state in the union where they will mate. It’s believed the humpbacks are drawn to Hawaii for its warm waters, underwater visibility, varying ocean depths and lack of natural predators.

How far do they travel?
They swim, pretty much non-stop, about 3,500 miles from Alaska. The journey generally takes 4-to-6 weeks.

Do they arrive in any particular order?
They do! Normally the first to arrive are the mother whales who are nursing their calves. Next up is the juveniles, then the adult males, followed by adult females. The last to arrive are the pregnant females. The pregnant whales bring up the rear because they feed and nourish themselves until the very last minute up in Alaska.

Once they get to Hawaii, where do they go?
They basically go to two different areas. A four-island cluster comprised of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kaho’olawe make up the first area. The other area, called the Penguin Band, is a section of shallow water about 25 miles southwest of Molokai. That said, whales have been spotted by residents and visitors on the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai.

How many whales are there?
In 1993, there were an estimated 6,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean. Of those, about 4,000 came through Hawai’i. Since the signing of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which banned commercial whaling, that number has increased. Scientists estimate there are now roughly 23,000 north pacific humpback whales, with about 12,000 – 14,000 of those coming through Hawaii each year.

How long do Northern Pacific Humpback Whales live?
They live about 50 years, but there have been accounts of some living much longer.

What do they eat?
They survive mainly on small fish, plankton and tiny crustaceans. What’s interesting is they never eat in Hawaii’s waters. They spend all summer eating in Alaska, then store up the food as blubber, which they then use to fuel their winter trips to Hawaii.

How long can the whales stay underwater?
While adults can stay underwater for up to 45 minutes, they tend to come up for air every 10-15 minutes. The calves come up about every 5 minutes.

Why do they jump out of the water?
Commonly called breaching, a study published in January, 2017 showed that humpbacks are more likely to breach when they are far apart (2.5 miles or more,) while tail or fin slapping occurs more frequently when they are together. This suggests that the humpbacks breach for long-range communication versus simply water slaps when they are near other whales.

Is there a Hawaiian name for humpback whales?
Yes, the Hawaiian name is kohola

I want to see whales every day I’m on Maui! Where’s the best place to see them from shore?
Honestly, you should be able to spot them from pretty much every beach on the south (Kihei/Wailea) and west (Lahaina/Ka’anapali) shores. You can also see them on the north shore (Paia/Ho’okipa). The best place, unfortunately, is probably on Highway 30 connecting Ma’alaea and Lahaina. If you see one while driving, remain calm and try not to accelerate into the driver in front you who just slowed to take a better look!

To book a whale watch tour with us, go here. If the boat goes out and no whales are seen, you will receive complimentary tickets for another trip.

More Maui Whale Watch Guides:

By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the island of Lanai? Well you can! Just use the promo code VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.