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28 Oct 2022
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Local's Guide

Whale season in Maui is one of the most magical marine experiences a person can encounter. Humpback whales, or Kohola, have been migrating to the Hawaiian oceans to breed, birth, and raise their young ever since the ancient Polynesian Era, 1-600 AD. These majestic creatures have a deep meaning in Hawaiian culture and can be seen throughout legends, folklore, and ritual artifacts such as musical instruments, carving, ceremonial dress, and royal jewelry. North Pacific humpback whales are believed to be an ‘aumakua (ancestors), and a direct representation of Kanaloa, the divine and supreme Hawaiian demigod of ocean animals.

These whales travel over 3,500 miles from the cold waters of Alaska to the warm waters of Hawaii during the winter months. Whale Watching is one of the most popular Maui activities during those cooler months. While you are near the beach, be sure to be on the lookout for any of these marine mammals breaching the water. You can also plan a whale-watching tour or scuba dive if you want to get an up close and personal look.

When is whale watching season in Maui?

The whale-watching season starts in late fall and continues into early spring. In October and November, we begin to see the first North Pacific humpback whales first start to arrive in Hawaii from Alaska. During these months, it can be hard to spot them breaching the water but by the time December rolls around, it will be easier to spot them as more are starting to arrive.

February is peak whale watching month. This is the middle of the season, so all the whales have migrated and aren’t on their way out. If you are lucky, you may get to see some baby whales, also names Keiki (pronounces Kay-Kay).

About Humpback Whales

It is estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 North Pacific humpback whales migrate to Hawaii every year. Marine Scientists have observed that whales can travel between 3 and 7 miles per hour. It is believed that their 3,600-mile one-way journey from Alaska to Hawaii can take up to 4-6 weeks and can be as little as 36 days.

Whales breed, birth, and raise their young in Hawaii. Humpbacks have an 11 to 12-month gestational period so baby humpbacks that are conceived last season will be birthed this season. When baby humpbacks are born, they range anywhere from 13 to 16 feet in length and weigh 2,000 pounds on average. Once fully grown they can weigh anywhere from 25-40 tons (50,000-80,000 lbs.) and are 45 to 60 feet long. Whales live an average of 50 years!

In the early 1900s, these majestic creatures were nearly extinct due to the commercial whaling industry. When the Endangered Species Act was passed by the United States government in 1973, it made it illegal to hunt, harm, or disturb humpback whales. Then in 1992 congress enacts the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to recognize the vital role the Hawaiian Islands have in the preservation of these marine mammals. Today, the sanctuary is managed in equal partnership by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the State of Hawai’i.

Whale Watching in Maui

The Island of Maui is one of the best places to be in Hawaii for whale watching along the shoreline. Beachgoers can watch the horizon for any breaching or the flip of their tails. If you are swimming or snorkeling, if you listen closely, you may be able to hear them singing. Their song can travel up to 12 miles and last up to around 40 minutes.

If you have time during your Maui vacation, you can go on a boat-watching tour to get a closer look. Pride of MauiPacific Whale Eco-Adventures, and Sail Maui offer are some of the best boat tours on the island. They each offer anywhere from 2–3-hour tours throughout the day and range from $75 per person to $120.

Book your Maui Vacation Rental

Take your next steps in planning your next Maui vacation! Find your perfect island home base in one of our Maui condo rentals. With condos all around the island, we offer ideal locations for your next whale-watching adventure. 

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