Christmas through April is “High Season” here on Maui. This time of year is the busiest with travelers coming to our beautiful Island/ We welcome many visitors to Maui during these winter months, mostly human but the largest mammals to visit never set foot on land: the humpback whale!
Wait a minute – mammals? Yes, that’s right, humpback whales are considered mammals because they give birth to live young, they have fur (although it is very sparse on their body), they have lungs to breath air and they provide milk for their young. (edit: I feel like the character, Cliff Clavin from Cheers, “It’s a little known fact…”).
Each year Hawaii’s humpback whales travel from their favorite summer feeding spot in Alaska to Hawaii’s warm waters, where they spend on average 6 weeks calving and mating. Interestingly they do not eat during their 6 week journey, Maui vacation and 6 week journey back to Alaska. Their food of choice is krill – which cannot be found here in Hawaii.
The first humpback typically arrives in Hawaii’ by mid-October, however the Pacific Whale Foundation usually guarantees sightings on their whale watches from mid-November until late-April. The best time to come see the whales is January through March, though this year they have been late in arriving.
Every February the Pacific Whale Foundation hosts an annual Whale Day Parade and Whale Day Festival with the purpose of raising awareness to protect the humpback whales and their habitat. This year the event takes place on February 13th.
The parade – South Maui’s only parade of the year – kicks off at 9am at the ABC store parking lot across from Kamaole I beach park. The procession moves North along South Kihei Road to Kukui Mall (across from the fire station at Kalama Park). This year’s theme is ‘For the Love of Whales’. It is a short stretch, and should wind down by 10am. I am curious to see this year’s creativity!
After the parade, the Whale Day Festival begins at Kalama Park and runs from 10am-6pm. Admission is $5/person, kids 12 and under are free. Come enjoy live music, a keiki (kids) carnival, local foods and vendors, an online auction, prizes etc.
How to get there? This year you can park at Azeka Shopping Center and Kihei Baptist Chapel – there is a shuttle bus. For an eco-friendly option, consider taking the Kihei Islander bus.
Check the Whale Festival’s website for much more information.
Curious to learn more about humpback whales? Check out these resources:
- Visitor Center at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback National Marine Sanctuary
- Whale exhibit at the Maui Ocean Center
- My favorite way to learn: Go on a whale watch! Our concierge service can book any Maui Whale watch.