Explore Maui

Whale Watching

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1992, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary lies within the shallow (less than 600 feet), warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands. The area constitutes one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats. Through education, outreach, research and resource protection activities, the sanctuary strives to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawai‘i.

Once nearly extinct, humpback whales have increased in number in their annual migrations from the north Pacific to Hawaii. In last season’s Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) whale count, 1,206 sightings—a fraction of statewide estimates—were reported in one day from 12 stations around Maui.

In South and West Maui especially, and in the channels between the four islands of Maui Nui (Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kaho‘olawe), whale-related activities keep the shorelines abuzz.

There are many ways of increasing your odds for a sighting, but whichever activity you choose, vessels are required by law to stay at least 100 yards away from whales.

Activities can be booked through resort concierges, activity stands and tour operators. The noncommercial, all-volunteer Whalesong pipes the haunting songs of whales, live, to a worldwide audience via transmitter and hydrophones submerged off Kihei. With seven vessels operating out of harbors in Ma‘alaea and Lahaina, the PWF conducts for-profit tours in addition to its whale counts, fundraisers and nonprofit research. Look for the Whalesong booth at Maui Whale Festival events, the annual Celebration of Arts in Kapalua and at various educational venues around the island.

The Maui Whale Festival runs the entire season at multiple venues across the island, with its signature Whale Day in February in Kihei: greatmauiwhalefestival. org, 808.249.8811. Whalesong, whalesong.net; Pacific Whale Foundation, pacificwhale.org.