Whale Watching on Maui

From November through May, over ten thousand humpback whales migrate to the waters off Hawaii. They are here to mate and to birth their young, but they seem to be having a lot of fun while they’re at it. There is an electricity around the ocean during the peak season of whale watching on Maui, the constant anticipation of the next sighting or aerial show. 

Visiting Maui during whale season isn’t a question of if you’ll see whales, it’s when and how. Look out to sea for long enough and you’re bound to witness these massive creatures throwing themselves into the air. While a whale watching boat tour can get you close to acrobatic behaviors, with a cold beverage in hand and interesting whale fact commentary by the experts, seeing them on the surface or below is an entirely unique experience.  

Hear The Sound Of Whales As You Paddle Board

Humpback whales are best known for their incredible vocals. To hear the whales sing, you simply need to dive under the water and listen. You’ll notice it while snorkeling off the beautiful beaches of Maui and most whale watching tours have onboard hydrophones that allow for real time audio amplification from the ocean below. On a recent paddle board whale watch from Wailea, I could hear the whales sing from above the surface. This was a magical experience, and a good reason to try paddling out to see whales, without the background noise of engines or fellow passengers. 

Whale Watching On Maui By Paddle Board 

Sitting on a board above the expansive ocean below, I suddenly feel very small. Seeing one of the largest animals on earth (roughly the size of a bus) surface nearby, I shrink even further. The anticipation of the next surfacing blow, pec slap or epic breach is as exciting as it gets. Being on a paddle board increases the rush of whale watching on Maui in an entirely unique way.

Tips For Paddling Out By Whales:

1. Live by the buddy system. How else will you backup this incredible story? 

2. Use a leash on your board…just in case

3. Keep an eye on the ocean, you’re looking for the telltale mist from a blowhole  

4. Be patient, whales are all around you but can stay below the surface for up to an hour

5. Keep your distance, 100 yards to be exact 

6. Rent a large, stable board that will allow you to sit or stand with confidence 

7. Enter the water from a sandy beach. Lava rock is sharp and urchin spines are amazing at ruining vacations

8. Rise and shine. Mornings offer ideal conditions for most ocean activities 

9. Forget the footage, just live it! Put down the camera and enjoy the moment 

10. Respect the ocean and marine life by using reef safe sunscreen and keeping your distance

Renting A Paddle Board For Whale Watching

Regardless of your paddle boarding experience, a large stable board is ideal for whale watching on Maui. The sheer excitement of a whale surfacing, pec slapping, spy hopping, or breaching nearby is enough to topple even the most core strengthened into the deep blue sea. Boss Frog’s offers stand up paddle boards for daily or weekly rentals, beach gear for post whale watch lounging and any additional whale watching accessories you might need at ten convenient locations on Maui.

Following The Rules

Thanks to strict enforcement of protective laws and advocacy, humpback whale populations are flourishing. Federal law states that no one may approach a humpback whale within 100 yards in Hawaiian waters. This means that all ocean users (boaters, swimmers, surfers, etc. ) must stay at least 100 yards from any humpback whale at all times. That said, sometimes getting close is out of your (or the captain’s) hands. Since they aren’t traveling to a specific destination during their time in Hawaii, the trajectory of a whale is unpredictable, leading to up close and absolutely awe inspiring encounters (see whale selfie below).

Best Time Of Year (and day) For Whale Watching On Maui

If you’re planning a vacation to Maui with whale watching on the must do activity list, February is your ideal window. It is literally impossible to visit Maui in February, even for a few hours, and NOT see whales. Look at the ocean, you’ll see what I mean. To get up and close to these magnificent creatures, plan one or a few activities for whale watching on Maui and plan them in the morning when the oceans are clear and glassy calm.

Humpback Whale Fun Facts:

  1. A humpback whale can hold their breath for up to 55 minutes 
  2. Humpback whales are identified by the unique markings on their fluke (tail). Each one is slightly different! 
  3. While in Hawaiian waters, humpback whales do not eat…anything, at all! They are here to mate, give birth and maybe get a tan 😉
  4. It is estimated that 10,000+ humpback whales migrate to Hawaii every year
  5. Humpback whales all sing the same song, but they add a new verse each year. For real, people study this! 
  6. A humpback whale cannot physically swallow a human. While their mouths can stretch to 10 feet across, their throats are only the size of a human fist! 

Whale watching on Maui is by far one of the best vacation activities. Look for them during a beach walk, from above during a helicopter tour, on a snorkeling boat to Molokini or from the comfort of a seaside happy hour.