Posted on: January 26, 2012

February Brings Peak of Whale-Themed Events

Humpback whales can be seen breaching and splashing off Maui’s shores from November through May, but experienced whalewatchers agree that the month of February brings the peak of the action. It’s the time when the largest numbers of whales are found in Maui’s clear, warm nearshore waters, mating, giving birth and nurturing their newborn calves.

The Maui Whale Festival is a six-month series of events honoring these humpback whales and the next generation that they are bringing forth during their winter in Maui. The festival dates parallel those of “whale season” and run from November through May. And just like “whale season,” the Maui Whale Festival “peaks” in February, with its most  popular signature events occupying every weekend of the month, plus a bevy of additional events featured on all the days in between.
(Note: Download high-resolution images of these events at
“It’s a magical time of year, when you can hear whales singing when you snorkel or dive in the ocean, and you can see whales in almost every direction,” says Greg Kaufman, President and Founder of Pacific Whale Foundation, the Maui-based international nonprofit that hosts the Maui Whale Festival. “There’s so much to celebrate, especially the fact that this population of whales is making a very successful comeback from the brink of extinction. The Maui Whale Festival offers many ways to participate in learning about and celebrating the presence of these remarkable animals.”
Maui’s Oldest and Biggest Whale Event: World Whale Day
The biggest event of the Maui Whale Festival is World Whale Day, a free outdoor celebration at oceanside Kalama Park in Kihei. World Whale Day takes place on Saturday, February 18, with free admission and an enthusiastic welcome to all who wish to attend. Last year’s event attracted an estimated 17,000 attendees; with longer hours this year, even more are expected to join the fun. World Whale Day begins with Maui’s Parade of Whales along South Kihei Road from 9 am to 10 am.
The live entertainment begins at Kalama Park at 10 am and continues until 8:00 pm with a star-studded line-up that includes some of Hawaii’s most popular performers –  the internationally renowned duo Hapa, beloved singer-songwriter John Cruz, the multi-talented crowd pleaser energetic Willie K, nationally known national rising star Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, sweet-voiced Anuhea, reggae master Marty Dread and Hawaii rock band Nuff Sedd, plus hula by Manute’a Nui E. A second stage will feature children’s entertainment, including singer/songwriter Uncle Wayne and the Howling Dog Band. 
World Whale Day also includes a mega-gathering of local artisans, who display and sell their wares at a huge “Made on Maui” fair.  Arrive hungry, because World Whale Day offers delicious fare by many local restaurants and  food purveyors. The younger set will love the Keiki (Children’s) Carnival, complete with ocean-themed carnival games by Pacific Whale Foundation’s inventive Education Department, bouncy rides, facepainting, cotton candy and shave ice. There are also displays about whales, and booths by local groups and government agencies working to protect Maui’s environment.

World Whale Day is presented by Pacific Whale Foundation, with support from Hawai’i Tourism Authority, County of Maui Office of Economic Development, Expedia Local Expert, Menehune Water Co. and the County of Maui Department of Parks and Recreation.
 Weekend with the Experts
An entire weekend of opportunities to learn about whales and the oceans is what the “Weekend with the Experts” on February 10, 11 and 12 is all about. Pacific Whale Foundation has brought in whale and marine experts from around the United States, as well as noted marine photographers from Hawai’i, to share their discoveries, photos and
video with the public.

The “Weekend with the Experts” begins on Friday, February 10, with a series of free presentations on the topic, “Swimming in Trash: Marine Debris and Its Impact on Whales.” You’ll hear from researchers who have visited and documented the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the world’s other major gyres, scientists who are tracking the tsunami debris that’s heading for Hawai’i, and one of the country’s leading experts on rescuing whales that are entangled in marine debris. Presenters are Bill Francis, Dr. Jan Hafner and Ed Lyman.The evening also includes a photo presentation by noted local photographer David Fleetham, whose work will remind everyone why Hawaii’s marine world is so unique – and so worth saving. All of the presentations are free and open to the public. They take place from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm in Ka’anapali, at the Westin Resort and Spa’s Haleakala Ballroom.

Saturday, February 10, brings another night of “Weekend with the Experts” presentations, on the topic of “In the Presence of Giants.” This second evening will include presentations on the latest discoveries about whale social sounds and communication, the impacts of man-made noise on whales, information on what science is showing about the impacts of whalewatching -- on humans and whales -- and results from an ongoing research study to prevent vessel-whale collisions in Maui County. There will also be a photo presentation showcasing dramatic underwater and above water photos of humpback whales in the South Pacific. Saturday's presenters include Dr. Carole Carlson, Dr. Daniela Maldini, Dr. Alison Stimpert and Doug Hoffman. These presentations are also free and open to the public and take place from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm Westin Resort and Spa, Ka’anapali. Reservations are not required, but are recommended. Call (808) 249-8811 ext. 1.
The “Weekend with the Experts” also includes daytime whalewatch trips led by the expert presenters. The trips depart from  Lahaina Harbor on Saturday, February 11 and Sunday, February 12. For details and tickets, visit or call (808) 249-8811 ext. 1.
Get Active: Run and Walk For the Whales
For those for would enjoy include a good run or walk in a scenic Maui setting, with views of the ocean (and perhaps a breaching whale or two), the Maui Whale Festival presents the Run and Walk for the Whales on Saturday, February 4. Choose your distance: 5K or Half Marathon and your preferred way of conquering it (walk or run or maybe a bit of both). Got kids under age 12? There’s a special 2K Keiki Race for them.
All of the events begin and end on the luau grounds overlooking the sea at the Makena Beach and Golf Resort. Special room rates are also available at the resort for Run and Walk for the Whales participants. To learn more and to sign up for the race, go to or visit Helpful hint: sign up by midnight, February 1 to save $5 on your entry fee.
Free Talk by Greg Kaufman
Whether you walk, run or simply relax at the beach during the day, don’t miss the free  multi-media presentation by Pacific Whale Foundation’s President and Founder, Greg Kaufman on the evening of Saturday, February 4. A researcher with more than 35 years experience with whales in the field, an author of three books about whales and a longtime activist who is an invited participant on the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, Kaufman is an engaging speaker, with riveting video and photos of whales to share with the audience.

The topic of his talk is “Whale Tales: The Latest Research Discoveries and a Journey to Save Them.”  The talk is free and open to all, and takes place at the Wailea Marriott Resort and Spa from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Arrive early (at 6:00 pm) to enjoy no-host cocktails. A book signing will follow Kaufman’s presentation.  Reservations are not required, but are recommended. Call (808) 249-8811 ext. 1.  For additional details, visit or click here
Great Whale Count
The month of February wraps up with the Great Maui Whale Count, an event that enlists visitors and residents to volunteer as whale counters. Sign up and you’ll get to work at an official counting site along Maui’s south and west shores, where most of the island’s whales are found. Each station is staffed by a Pacific Whale Foundation researcher or staff person, who will provide all of the training you need and teach you about whale research techniques. The count takes place from 8:30 am to 11:30 am; volunteers are asked to arrive a half hour early. There’s no cost to participate. To volunteer for the Great Maui Whale Count, please contact Michelle Vienkgone  at Please include your name, daytime or cell phone number, the number of people in your group, their ages, and where you will be staying on Maui, so that the research team can assign you to the most convenient counting location.  Pacific Whale Foundation’s research team will contact you with information about your assignment. 
And More!
If that wasn’t enough to jam into one month, the Maui Whale Festival also includes a free Whalewatch and Interpretive Hike on Wednesday, February 22, special whalewatch cruises,  a Whale Photo Safari, a free photography exhibition known as “Tribute to the Whales” and daily “Whale Information Stations” along the “Trail of the Whale” where you can learn about whales from knowledgeable Pacific Whale Foundation naturalists. (The naturalists are especially good at helping “newbies” learn to locate whales from shore, and offer the use of binoculars to help you get a closer look.)

To learn all about the Maui Whale Festival, visit the website at In the midst of all the fun, don’t forget to get out to see the whales firsthand on a whalewatch
cruise with Pacific Whale Foundation. There are more than 15 whalewatch cruises offered daily on the foundation’s eight vessels, from Ma’alaea and Lahaina Harbors. For reservations, visit or  call Pacific Whale Foundation at (808) 249-8811 ext. 1.
About Pacific Whale Foundation
Pacific Whale Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting our oceans through science and advocacy. Through educational whalewatches and ocean ecotours, Pacific Whale Foundation educates the public about the ocean and also raises money for its research, education and conservation programs. These programs include humpback whale research projects in Hawai’i, Australia, Ecuador, Oceania and other parts of the Pacific, as well as studies of odontocetes (toothed whales and dolphins) off the coasts of Maui and Lana’i. Pacific Whale Foundation also provides marine education programs and environmental learning field trips for thousands of local schoolchildren on Maui, and works on numerous marine conservation issues. To learn more, visit or call (808) 249-8811.