No trip to Maui is complete without a tailslap!
Humpback whales migrate to the warm shallow waters near Maui each winter from November to May with peak season running January to March. The area between West Maui and the nearby island of Lanai is the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. It is possible to see whales breaching and tail slapping from shore (I’ve seen breaches from both Wailea’s Ekahi Village and the Gold Golf Course) but the most exciting and interesting whale watching happens on the water.
There are many different types of whale watch adventures you can go on while on Maui. The main departure marina is in Lahaina, but tours leave from Ma’alaea and Kihei as well. Some just cruise the open water looking for whales, while others take you on a snorkel trip with the added bonus of whale watching!
If you are interested in giving back a little, then the Pacific Whale Foundation is the tour for you. A non-profit with the stated goal “to protect our oceans through science and advocacy.” During the whale season, the foundation runs several daily tours departing from Lahaina and Ma’alaea Harbors. Their boats are tall and you can see well, but you’re off the water.
If you want to stick your nose (well not literally) into the action, then you’ll want to ride along in one of Maui Adventure Cruise’s Zodiac boats – a large inflatable outboard engine boats similar to the Coast Guard – so you are very close to the water. And yes, you can stick your Go Pro in for some cool underwater shots! They do not take too many people, either, so you can really get up close and personal on this tour! Remember that the water really reflects the sun, so be sure to take sun glasses, a hat, sunscreen, and a light jacket as it can be cool and windy at times on the water.
Looking for some fun while out on the water you can try Trilogy. They have great Molokini and even sunset snorkel trips. A fast gorgeous catamaran and great food with knowledgeable and fun staff – you really can’t go wrong here either.
If you’re staying in South Maui, then I do like the folks at Blue Water Rafting. They also use a Zodiac boat, but they leave from the Kihei Boat Ramp, so much closer to the resorts and hotels in Kihei, Makena and Wailea. Their tours often include snorkel and site-seeing along the way.
You will not regret the decision to go for a whale watching excursion. The guides provide a lot of background and history, so not only do you get to see the whales, you get to learn about them, too!
Want to research some more whale watches and other adventures? Check out these links from our partners at The Snorkle Store.