Experience the Magic of Whale Watching in Hawaii
Each winter, Maui plays host to one of the greatest natural spectacles on Earth. Thousands of kohola, or humpback whales, migrate from waters off Alaska and the north Pacific to the shallow and warm water channels between Maui, Molokai, Kaho’lawe and Lanai – a journey of many thousands of miles. At this destination, they engage in an ancient oceanic ritual of breeding, giving birth, and nursing their calves. January through March sees particularly high concentrations of these magnificent creatures, to such an extent that the locals jokingly refer to it as “whale soup”.
As the start of Maui’s ‘whale season’ drew near in early December, I found myself bobbing in the gentle surf of Polo Beach, the site which fronts Wailea’s Fairmont Kea Lani resort. As I took in the majestic sight of the humpback whales- or kama’aina as they are known locally- reverently regarded by Polynesian culture and featured in ancient petroglyphs and Hawaiian creation stories, I was reminded of the spiritual connection between humans and the natural world. The mythical power of the kohola that signifies strength, power and unity can truly be felt while watching them socialize, sing and play just offshore.
Whilst sequestered for a few days in an ocean-facing Kilohana suite, I scanned the horizon with anticipation in search of whales. After a matter of minutes, I discerned a misty spout, indicative of a whale exhaling, followed immediately by a tail fluke breaking the surface of the water in a graceful swoop, accompanied by a dark pectoral fin visible soon afterwards. Attempting to contain my excitement, I uttered “whale!” to the surrounding swimmers, several of whom were intently observing a large sea turtle that had ventured nearby. The spectacle concluded with a powerful breach and arching leap.
Maui’s whale watching season had arrived with a sizable impact. Numerous methods of observation are available, encompassing boat excursions, guided kayaking tours, terrestrial locations along the south and west coasts of Maui, as well as several luxury oceanfront hotel establishments such as Westin Maui’s Hokupa’a wing, the Sheraton Maui’s Moana wing, and Fairmont Kea Lani’s Kilohana suites and villas. The balconies of these properties offer ideal vantage points to this remarkable display of nature, making them perfect places to experience the event.
We pay homage to the mammalian experience; a vacation for Homo sapiens and a mission for Megaptera novaeangliae (humpback whales). To partake in this majestic activity, one must embark on Whale Watching in Maui. To ensure a memorable journey, reputed Outfitters should be chosen from the few recommended below. These may range from small inflatable boats to sailing catamarans, guided double sit-on-top kayaks and large excursion boats. Further amenities may include snorkel stops with microphones lowered into the water, enabling an awe-inspiring auditory experience of whale songs travelling across long distances.
PacWhale EcoAdventures, located in Lahaina and Ma’alaea, offers various boat tours that contribute to the Pacific Whale Foundation’s mission of research, education, and conservation. I highly recommend the two-hour morning tour ($ and updeparting from Lahaina Harbor, as certified marine naturalists will provide insight into the habits of whales which are known to travel faster underwater than in the air and only males sing. To further enhance the experience, a continental breakfast is provided and children under the age of four are not permitted on board.
In conclusion, Whale Watching in Maui offers a unique and awe inspiring experience, which should not be missed. Though it may require some research to find the right Outfitter for you, once you have embarked upon this journey, you will have unveiled an unbelievable majestic animal experience and a captivating auditory experience unlike any other. Furthermore, with your presence showing support and appreciation for the Humpback Whale species, you are contributing toward conservation efforts in the long run.