Whale Watching Season | Maui Ocean Center

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Embrace the Thrills of Whale Watching Season in Maui

March 22, 2024

Whale watching season in Maui is a magical time to visit the island. As many people venture to warmer climates during those cold winter months, so too do koholā (humpback whales), who migrate from cold arctic waters to seek refuge in the warmth of the north Pacific. 

So if you’re planning a family vacation to our wonderful island, taking a relaxing couples’ Maui retreat, or interested in what nature has to offer on our side of the ocean, whale watching is an unforgettable experience.

When is Whale Watching Season?

Whale watching season typically falls between November and April. Truth is, the exact dates are up to the whales, who decide exactly when they want to trek the 3,000-plus miles from the arctic waters of Alaska to the warm tropical ones of Hawaiʻi. An estimated 10,000 humpback whales make this journey every winter.  There’s plenty of time, however, until peak whale watching season which falls between January and March.


Humpback whales make this long swim for one reason: to mate. Male humpbacks engage in a fantastic display of rolling, racing, and singing—yes, singing—to attract their female counterparts. And while all of this drama occurs below the surface, you as the whale watcher get to witness a magnificent wildlife spectacle above.

Humpback Whales in Maui

Humpback whales are massive, reaching an average length of 49 to 52 feet. The average weight for an adult humpback ranges from 50,000 to 80,000 pounds, and females are typically larger than males.


The term humpback comes from their hump-shaped dorsal fin and their scientific name, Megaptera—meaning “large-winged”—is derived from their large, wing-like fins. But a more important name brings their cultural significance to the forefront and holds a special place in Hawaiian culture.


Humpbacks and other large whales are known as koholā. In the Kumulipo creation chant—a sacred chant recited by Hawaiian ruling chiefs narrating their ancestry and history—whales are believed to have assisted Polynesians in discovering the Hawaiian Islands and are seen as ‘aumakua, or spiritual protectors. When you see a humpback whale during your excursion, it’s amazing to know the special place these sea creatures hold in Hawaiian culture.


Maui lends itself to be a prime location for humpback mothers to give birth and raise their calves in the warm, shallow, protected waters. This increases your chances for a remarkable whale watching experience.

And once you’ve seen these whales with your naked eyes, join us for our 3D Sphere experience where you can witness a humpback’s true beauty beneath the waves.

Great Whale Watching Spots

Mā'alaea Harbor

Located off Maui’s southwest coast, Mā’alaea Harbor offers sheltered waters and is close to the Maui Nui Basin, a marine sanctuary for humpback whales. Several boat tours do leave from Mā’alaea Harbor, but you’re more than welcome to come to our center and utilize our amazing lookout points, including our Seascape Restaurant.

Mākena Beach Park

If you head to the southern tip of Maui, you’ll encounter a beautiful white sand beach with a mountainous backdrop. It is possible to spot whales from the shore but a pair of binoculars is strongly advised. While it’s not the prime location for whale watching, if you’re swimming or taking a day for R&R, you may still catch a glimpse.

Kama’ole Beach Park

Kama’ole has three beach parks, aptly named Kama’ole Beach Parks I, II, and III. In Hawaiian, Kama’ole means “barren land” because of the dry climate before the area was developed. During whale watching season, you may see these wonderful creatures from the shore, but if they’re farther out, you might just catch a glimpse of a surface break or a mighty fountain from their blowholes.


Kama’ole Beach Park III has a more open view and may be the better spot to view from.

Papawai Point

A panoramic 180-degree view awaits you between Highway 30’s mile markers eight and nine. For many whale watchers—or whale watching seekers—this point offers the best shot at seeing humpback whales live their best lives. You may want to tuck binoculars in your bag for a more clear view.

PacWhale Eco-Adventures

Watching from land is a great experience but getting as close as possible makes whale watching incredibly memorable. But choosing the right tour company cannot be understated, both for your experience and for the safety of the whales.

PacWhale Eco-Adventures is 100 percent owned by the Pacific Whale Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to protecting the declining humpback whale population. They offer an ecotour, meaning you get the ocean-cruising, whale-watching experience you seek and the entire effort keeps the environment at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Whale Watching Etiquette

Book tours in advance

Whale watching tours are popular and you don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity. Book in advance so you respect your fellow whale watching companions come tour time.

Choose a reputable whale watching company

There are companies committed to sustainable practices including using fuel-efficient boats and minimizing their impact on the environment. Find a skilled captain who knows how to act responsibly to protect the natural beauty you’re there to see.

Obey local beach and park regulations

Be courteous of local beach and park regulations including designated viewing areas and noise restrictions. Look out for signs posted in those areas or familiarize yourself ahead of time with online resources.

Be patient

Whales—and we mean all whales—are wild sea animals and there is no guarantee that they’ll surface and put on a show. Maui has so much to offer, with diverse marine life and beautiful foliage, so don’t forget to soak that in too.


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