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:
- Part 1: Humpback Migration from Alaska to Hawaii
- Part 2: Why Humpbacks Breach
- Part 3: Visual Guide of Humpback Actions
- Humpback Whale Q & A
- Whale watch Q & A specific to our tours
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.