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Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) that we receive about whales in Maui.
What's the best time of year to see whales in Maui?
Each year, humpback whales migrate from cool waters near Alaska to their warm-water breeding grounds in Hawaii. The first whale sightings of the year typically take place in late September or October. Visit our Facebook page for our first sightings reports.
The whales don't arrive all at once. Their numbers gradually increase as winter approaches.
From November 4 until May 15, we guarantee sightings on all of our whalewatch cruises. In the unlikely event that we don't see whales during your Pacific Whale Foundation whalewatch, you'll get a "Just a Fluke" coupon to go again free. To book a cruise, please follow this link.
In late November, Pacific Whale Foundation holds our annual "Welcome Home the Whales Celebration."
The peak of whalewatch season is typically in February and March. That's when we hold our Maui Whale Festival, including our Run and Walk for the Whales, our Parade of Whales, World Whale Day Celebration and Great Whale Count. Learn more about our whale festival events here.
Where can I see whales while I'm visiting Maui?
During the winter and spring, you can see whales from shore. The best views are from Maui's south and west shores, in areas that include Makena, Wailea, Kihei, Ma'alaea, Olowalu, Lahaina, Ka'anapali and Kapalua. In recent years, sightings have become more common off the North Shore, in such areas as Ho'okipa. Hana also offers very good whale sightings.
However, for the best views, go on a whalewatch. By law, vessels can approach whales up to 100 yards away, which is generally closer than you would see them from shore. And often, whales will become curious and approach vessels on their own, to closer than within 100 yards.
Pacific Whale Foundation offers whalewatch eco-adventures daily from Lahaina and Ma'alaea Harbors, from late-November through mid-May. During your Pacific Whale Foundation whalewatch, you'll have the opportunity to hear fascinating narration about the whales from our onboard Certified Marine Naturalists. We also give you the chance to listen to whales, via underwater hydrophones that pick up whale songs from underwater.
Which harbor is better for whalewatching?
Both Lahaina and Ma'alaea Harbors offer excellent whale watching. We suggest that you choose the harbor that's most convenient to where you are staying. Ma'alaea is ideal for people staying in Kihei, Wailea and Ma'alaea, as well as Upcountry Maui. Lahaina is a good choice for people in Ka'anapali, Kapalua and of course Lahaina. Because our captains generally navigate our vessels to remain in the lee of the West Maui Mountains, both our Lahaina and Ma'alaea-based whalewatch cruises operate in the calmest waters available each day.
Get more info on whalewatching on Maui. Download a free copy of our Humpback Whale: Hawaii Wildlife Whalewatching Guide.
Should I book my whalewatch or snorkel tour in advance?
To get your ideal choice of dates and trips, we recommend booking your whalewatch or other ocean ecotour with Pacific Whale Foundation in advance. You'll also save 10% when you book online in advance.
You'll receive a full refund if you cancel your cruise 48 hours or more in advance of the scheduled departure time. You can also reschedule as long as you do so 48 hours or more in advance.
What types of dolphins are found off Maui?
Spinner dolphins are the most commonly sighted dolphins, followed by bottlenose dolphins and spotted dolphins. Many people have not heard of spinner dolphins, but fall in love with them once they see them. These social, acrobatic dolphins are named for their spinning leaps above the ocean's surface. Bottlenose dolphins often bowride with our vessels, especially as we cruise through the 'Au'Au Channel between Maui and the neighboring island of Lana'i. We offer daily dolphin watch cruises with guaranteed sightings for those who want to be sure to see these beautiful marine mammals in the wild.