Whale Watching Cruises from Lanai, Hawaii: A Guide

As we’ve said of all the other Hawaiian Islands, Lanai is a great place to whale watch. There are so many whales around the Hawaiian Islands that you can spot them from the shore with some regularity, but in order to get the best views, you’ll have to take a whale watching cruise. The whale watching cruises from Lanai are limited, especially relative to some of the other islands, but it’s possible, and that’s all that really matters if you find yourself on Lanai hoping to whale watch. To help you find the right cruise, we’ve compiled the following guide to whale watching from Lanai.

Whale watching in Hawaii basically begins and ends with humpback whales. They feed in Alaska over the summer, and then during the fall a significant portion – up to half of the total North Pacific humpback whale population – migrates to Hawaii to spend the winter. The whales swim around the Hawaiian Islands from roughly December to May, and the population peaks between January and April, which is when the most whale watching tours are offered. When departing from Lanai, your cruise will take place in the Auau Channel, whose shallow waters lie between Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. Although humpback whales are at the center of basically all whale watching cruises in Hawaii, you will see other animals while sailing around. This includes other whale species, like pilot whales, as well as other forms of marine life, like dolphins and sea turtles. The waters surrounding Hawaii have much more to offer than humpback whales, even if these leviathans are the marquee attraction for many people.

When searching for whale watching cruises in Lanai, there are a couple of different things to be mindful of. To begin, because Lanai and Maui are so close together, the two island are essentially treated as one region by the different whale watching companies. Thus, even if you specifically search for something like “whale watching cruises in Lanai,” you’ll get a lot of results for cruises that actually depart from Lahaina Harbor, which is on Maui. Indeed, it seems that the majority of whale watching companies that sail the Auau Channel are based here. However, there is a ferry service, Expeditions, between the two islands that runs regularly, so you may consider sailing out off Maui because it is only an hour-long ferry ride away. Interestingly, the ferry service itself acts as something of a whale watching cruise, as during the humpback season there is a good chance you’ll see whales while crossing the channel. So, you might be able to fulfill your whale watching needs without even booking a regular cruise.

As for cruises that travel directly out of Lanai, the only ones we were able to find are offered by Trilogy Ocean Sports. They normally operate as a snorkeling trip provider, but they also offer “Ocean Rafting with Marine Mammal Search,” which is basically just a whale watching cruise during the humpback season. While this is the only company we are able to find that sails from Lanai and explicitly advertises whale watching, it is worth keeping in mind that there are potentially other companies that offer whale watching tours during the winter. Some sporting fishing companies will occasionally offer whale watching cruises during peak season, and there are often people who operate charter boats that can offer what essentially amounts to a whale watching cruise.

So, there aren’t many whale watching cruises that sail from Lanai, but there is at least one company that offers them consistently during the humpback season, and a few other companies operate out of Lahaina Harbor, right across the Auau Channel in Maui. Also, when staying on Lanai, you might discover whale watching cruise operators that don’t label themselves as such, so it is worth keeping your eyes out for these opportunities as well. For more general information, check out our article on whale watching cruises in Hawaii.

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