HHeading to Maui in the winter? Be sure to go whale watching on Maui, one of the best things to do in December, January, or February. Scroll to see the whale watching Maui tour options!
This whale watching on Maui post was written by Hawaii travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Whale watching in Maui would surely ignite the inner marine biologist and explorer in your kid’s inner being with the largest mammals on Earth.
Almost all the whale watching tours have experienced marine biologists who share their experiences with these magnificent marine mammals.
Kids will be astonished by the beauty and size of the Maui humpback whales, it’s recommended for children aged seven and up to enjoy whale watching.
However, the age factor may vary depending on the whale watching company that you choose.
In addition, almost all the tours offer complimentary hydrophones when you tour so that you can listen to the beautiful songs that the humpback whales sing.
If you want to go whale watching, Maui is the place to do it.
Keep scrolling to learn about the best whale watching tours in Maui plus my top tips about when to go!
Don’t miss my ultimate Maui packing list!
Don’t have time to read a bunch of Hawaii blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Maui.
Popular Maui Tours/Activities
- Sunrise at Haleakala (this is great to book for your first morning on Maui and the views are unsurpassed)
- Reverse Road to Hana Tour (this is the BEST way to do this iconic Maui scenic drive without arguing with your spouse)
- Molokini Snorkel Tour (this is one of the best places to snorkel on Maui)
- Surf Lessons for Kids (this is the BEST way for your kids to learn how to surf in Hawaii)
- Old Lahaina Luau (the is the most popular luau for families)
- Book a Photo Shoot (this is a Hawaii souvenir you’ll treasure forever)
Favorite Maui Resorts/Hotels
- Hyatt Regency Maui (this has a swim-up bar and tons of amazing amenities)
- Andaz Maui (this is a luxury resort with the best luau on Maui)
- Honua Kai Resort & Spa (this is one of our personal favorites because there are tons of pools and there are condo options)
Want to Rent a Car in Hawaii?
One of the best places to rent a car in Hawaii is Discount Hawaii Car Rental because they get the best rates from top national companies like Alamo, Dollar, Thrifty, Avis, Enterprise, Budget, and Payless.
Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Maui Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.
What You Need to Know About Whale Watching on Maui
Here is everything you need to know about whale watching in Maui. From learning when is whale watching season in Maui to the best places to see whales in Maui, and even the best whale watching tours Maui has to offer, you will find it all in this Maui whale watching guide!
ABOUT THE WHALES
The whales have their annual winter migration roughly between November and March through the North Pacific Ocean.
The North Pacific humpback whales are the 5th largest species of whale in the world. Newborns weigh about 2000 lbs and the grown whales can weigh between 50000 and 80000 lbs.
Humpback whales migrate to the oceans of Hawaii for the following reasons, to breed, to give birth, and to raise their calves.
Whales have an 11 to 12-month gestational period, so the calves are conceived and birthed in the Hawaiian islands.
Adult humpback whales come to the surface to breathe every 10 to 15 minutes, newborns come to the surface every 3 to 5 minutes.
So, there’s never a dull moment when experiencing whale watching in Maui Hawaii!
While it is very rare, you might see sperm whales or even false killer whales. Most often, you will experience a humpback whale breaching in the ocean.
TIPS FOR WHALE WATCHING ON MAUI
Whales can be seen from the shore, but it would be better to see them on a boat- therefore booking a whale watch tour would be essential.
You’ll not only get an amazing view but you’ll be educated about these beautiful creatures by the naturalists that are on board these Maui whale tours.
Booking a whale watching adventure early in the day would be advised, however, each day is different and it’s mainly dependent on the weather.
The mornings are usually calm in Maui and the afternoons are windy, so a Maui whale watching tour would be more comfortable in the morning rather than in the windy afternoon.
The next thing you would need to focus on is getting the right vessel, for example, inflatable rafts are fast and can offer you a thrilling ride- but it isn’t safe for young children or people with back problems.
So you need to get a vessel that would be best suited to you and your situation- in terms of which family members are joining on the whale watch tour.
Also, you need to keep your head on a swivel, because the whales won’t just pop up in front of the vessel, they often pop up behind as well. So using the boat as a clock is advised by captains.
If you want to avoid getting seasick and nauseous, you should stay above the deck and keep looking out at the horizon. You can take medication for nausea and avoid looking down. You should also avoid small and enclosed spaces.
When you look out at the water to see a humpback whale, just remember to listen. You don’t always see the whales first, but you hear them as the air goes out of their blowholes and creates a loud sound. Almost all tour operators will have the hydrophone to help you hear and spot whales.
When a humpback whale flukes and you see its tail, it means that it’ll go underwater.
The adults can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes, so going somewhere else to look for the humpbacks would be a better idea than waiting for them to come back up to breathe.
Best Whale Watching Tours on Maui Hawaii
Here are some of the top whale watching tours Maui has to offer during the Maui humpback whale season.
This tour is currently not operating due to the Lahaina fires.
There are various different kinds of whale watch tours that are offered by the Pacific Whale Foundation on Maui. All their tours include some of the best whale watching Hawaii has to offer. Check out the latest prices and more details.
A question and answer session and narration are included in the tour with the Marine Naturalists who are certified by the foundation.
You’ll learn the history of the foundation, their decades’ worth of research on whales and you’ll learn more about Maui’s humpback whales themselves.
You can hear the whales sing their songs using the underwater hydrophones and the catamarans offer a smooth journey for the guests along the coastline.
The Pacific Whale Foundation has a list of photo safaris, whale sails, sunrise whale watches, and more.
Find discounted Pacific Whale Foundation Tours
Using underwater hydrophones, listen to them sing, and watch males compete for mates or mother whales calving — you never know what you might see on this adventure that guarantees whale sightings.
Enjoy the views from the open upper deck or the shaded cabins below, and hear informative commentary from naturalist guides on board.
This family-friendly outing also includes a Naturalist Program for kids. It is one of the best Maui whale watch tours to experience!
Find discounted Pac-Whale Eco Adventures whale watching tours.
If you want to do some whale watching in Kihei, this tour is for you!
The great thing about the inflatable raft is that it puts the guests closer to the water. It’s an awesome activity for you to do if you’re staying around Makena, Kihei, or Wailea- areas in South Maui.
This activity, however, isn’t recommended for kids under 8 years of age, and for people with back problems.
If the kids are younger than 8, opt for a different cruise, or do the Redline Rafting with your hubby or your wife and take the kids on another cruise. The other convenient and great thing about the raft is that there’s a bathroom on board.
Redline whale watching offers some of the best whale tours Maui has to offer!
The cost for an adult is $75. Get discounted Redline Rafting whale watching tours
There is a whale watch and kayak tour, which is perfect for adventure enthusiasts who are passionate about marine life. Check out the latest prices and more details.
It couldn’t get more picturesque and surreal, seeing a humpback whale gliding under your kayak or feeling the vibrations from their songs along the water.
It’s an experience you wouldn’t want to miss out on and one of the best whale watching kayaking tours! Book your Whale Watching Kayak & Snorkeling Tour.
The Pride of Maui is truly a once-in-a-lifetime whale-watching experience.
It’s a three-hour cruise and the journey includes snorkeling in Maui’s stunning coral reefs, namely the Turtle Reef and the Molokini Crater. Check out the latest prices and more details.
The boat trips are small group tours with naturalists on board that help educate the tourists about the Maui island and humpback whales.
Who wouldn’t want to experience this kind of fascinating beauty? It truly is one of the best Maui whale watching tours offered as it combines snorkeling and whale watching.
The tour boat has a glass bottom and it contains a water slide, a bar, onboard showers, two restrooms, submerged boarding ladders, and open deck space. It offers the ultimate whale watch experience!
Food and beverages are included as well as complimentary hotel transport, which is dependent on where you stay on the island.
Remember to make a reservation in advance as they book out quickly.
Book your whale watching and snorkeling tour
For an active early morning while experiencing whale watching uniquely, opt for a paddling tour from Hawaiian Paddle Sports.
There are various types available, such as outrigger canoe tours, kayak, paddleboard- the mandated limits are adhered to of a 100-yard distance, however, the whales sometimes swim close- right under the boat!
There is an eco-tour company that offers lower rates for these adventures, if you volunteer some of your time to do voluntary work in Maui- the company is called travel2change.
The kids would also love it, as they can be active and use their energy while experiencing the fascinating sight of the beautiful humpback whales.
It is the best whale watching tour Maui has to offer!
Are you looking to have a more secluded and private experience? You’ll find Kaanapali Ocean Adventures off the coast of Maui, you would need to reserve a private yacht cruise.
Their cruise can take up to 32 guests at a time and is available each year from December through to April.
The cruise is a magnificent experience, you’ll get to see baby humpback whales that are learning to navigate through the waters, humpback whale breaching, and, of course, the coastal wonders of Maui!
Remember to bring your cell phone, camera, or whatever you’re using to record this amazing experience.
Seeing multiple whales is such an awesome experience and offers the best time for whale watching in Maui as it is only available during the winter months.
The Sail Trilogy tours have various different locations to depart from Maui, such as Lahaina Harbor, Ka’anapali, and Maalaea Harbor.
The whale watching tours are two hours long and there are naturalists on board who educate guests about the island and marine animals.
Hydrophones are also provided for guests to hear the magnificent songs that the whales make- definitely, an experience to remember.
The cruise also offers appetizers and drinks- as it’s a popular cruise, it’s limited to small groups, so you should book in advance to avoid disappointment.
You can even go on a sunset whale watch tour too, one of the best tours on Maui’s waters! Be sure to book this incredible experience during whale watching season in Maui!
Book your Sail Trilogy Whale Watch Maui Tour
For a more in-depth and longer whale watching tour, opt for Maui Boat Trips.
They have tours that don’t only include whale watching, they include dolphin watching, Molokini Crater, and Turtle Town.
The tour lasts about 4 to 5 hours, so the tour provides a delicious continental breakfast and a filling savory lunch.
They even offer a private whale watch in Maui experience!
To learn more about the magnificent humpback whales, visit the National Marine Sanctuary.
The sanctuary is located in the shallow, warm waters of Maui and the sanctuary provides an environment for the beautiful humpbacks.
The sanctuary is dedicated to preserving the environment of the humpbacks and protecting them. They do whale research and take care of all the whales.
When you leave the visitor center in the sanctuary, you’ll be able to see the stunning humpbacks in action.
Enjoy a two-hour whale watching tour with an open bar! It is on a catamaran which is very spacious and quite comfortable.
On this tour, you can even sit on bean bags on open nets so you have a front row seat to the beautiful animals! Check out the latest prices and more details.
It offers the top whale watching in Maui in February and is a great family-friendly adventure.
If you are staying about Ma’alaea Harbor, hop aboard the Calypso and enjoy an afternoon whale watching to see these gentle giants.
The triple-decker catamaran Calypso is amazing and is one of the best boat tours to experience. Check out the latest prices and more details.
During this two hour experience, you’ll head to the Pali coast of Maui and see the whales at sea levels with the underwater viewing room!
It is definitely one of the best Maui whale watching tours.
What to Bring on a Maui Whale Watching Cruise
If you plan on whale watching in Maui season, here are a few things you should get:
It can get quite windy in the Hawaiian islands, especially in Winter.
So, it’s a good idea to have a windbreaker with you in case you get a bit chilly on early morning or evening Hawaii whale watching boat rides.
The water reflects sunlight, so it’s easy to get burned if you are taking a mid-day whale-watching boat ride on Maui. That’s why you’ll want to apply reef-safe sunscreen before and during your whale-watching cruise.
And you’ll also want to wear sunscreen lip balm so your lips don’t get chapped with the salty air.
Maui Whale Watching Season FAQs
When is whale season in Maui? Maui’s whale season in Hawaii is during the winter. Maui whale watching season runs from November through May. Personally, I think November is the best month to see whales on Maui simply because there are fewer tourists (especially between Thanksgiving and Christmas.)
Really, any time of day is awesome during Hawaii whale season! I’d suggest checking the weather before you go. That way, you can avoid choppy waters (and potential seasickness) and guarantee clear skies.
If your main goal is to take a lot of photos of the whales, the best time to whale watch in Maui is late afternoon to take advantage of that beautiful golden hour light.
You bet! There are spots in Maalaea, Kaanapali, Kihei, and Wailea where you can see whales from the shore. You’ll want to bring binoculars to get a better view, though. It’s one of the best cheap things to do in Maui. However, if you are serious about watching to see a lot of whales up close-ish, you’re going to want to do a whale-watching boat tour.
While you can see whales all around Maui, there’s a spot between Maui, Kaho’olawe, and Lanai that is called the Maui Nui Basin. About half the humpback whale population migrates through the Maui Nui Basin every year to breed. It is the best whale watching Maui has to offer!
While there are some awesome Kauai whale watching tours, Maui is pretty famous for its whale-watching experiences. That’s because so many whales migrate near Maui. But, you can make your own judgment on the best Hawaiian island for whale watching by reading my full post about whale watching in Kauai here.
If you are going during the whale watching Maui season, it is so worth it! The best time to go to Maui for whale watching is during the winter months as that is the best time to see humpback whales in Maui.
Whale Watching Maui Wrap-Up
Now you know the best time to visit Maui for whales and where to see whales in Maui, you can enjoy any of these tours!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post about whale watching on Maui. Now you know a lot about what whales are in Hawaii, including which ones to expect to see while observing from the shore or boat.
It’s an amazing experience seeing these majestic creatures up close so go enjoy it! But don’t wait too long – tours are selling out fast with all of the new visitors coming here for vacation and work. Book your tour before they sell out today!
Whether you want to see whales in Maui in January, December, February, or any other winter month, you will enjoy the best time to watch whales in Maui with any of the tours mentioned above to enjoy a whale sighting.