whale watching cruises

Whale Watching Cruises from Maui, Hawaii: A Guide

Almost every Hawaiian Island has whale watching cruises, and this is certainly true of Maui. Several companies provide regular whale watching cruises, and a number of other companies offer whale watching in one way or another. Figuring out exactly who offers what is fairly challenging, however, so we took it upon ourselves to devise the following guide to whale watching in Maui. We list the companies with whom you can whale watch, as well as provide a brief overview of whale watching around Maui.

We have now written about whale watching on all the large Hawaiian Islands, and in every article we unavoidably conveyed the same thing: humpback whales are the reason there is whale watching in Hawaii. During the fall, humpback whales begin their migration from Alaska to Hawaii, arriving in the waters surrounding the islands in about December. They stay till about May, and during this time they mate and have calves, who will then join the great migration back to Alaska in late spring to feed in the colder waters for the summer. Of the approximately 21,000 North Pacific humpback whales, nearly half of them spend the winter in Hawaii, and this is why it is such an amazing place to whale watch. Humpback whales are therefore the center of Hawaiian whale watching cruises, which only operate when the whales are around the islands, but you can also see many other animals on these cruises. Other whale species are occasionally spotted, like pilot whales, and range of marine life can be seen as well, including dolphins and sea turtles.

The hardest part about booking a whale watching cruise is just figuring out what’s available. This is especially true in Maui because of the number and diversity of whale watching opportunities. To impose some order on the wide range of possibilities, we’ve listed and categorized all the companies we could find that offer whale watching in one form or another:

Regular whale watching:

Pacific Whale Foundation
Maui Adventure Cruises
Redline Rafting
Hawaii Ocean Rafting
Kaanapali Ocean Adventures
Gemini Charters
Kai Kanani Sailing Charters

All of these companies offer standard whale watching cruises. Passengers sail around the ocean looking for whales, generally for about two hours, and that is the whole function of the trip. Most of these companies offer several cruises a day during the humpback season, so you shouldn’t have much trouble booking with one of these companies during your stay in Maui (provided it is in the December to May range). Most of the boats used for whale watching in Maui are fairly small, fitting around a dozen people perhaps, but it is worth mentioning that you can also whale watch while kayaking. There are a few kayaking companies in Maui, but the only one we found that offers a tour aimed at seeing whales is Maui Kayak Adventures.

Since whales are merely one of the many forms of marine life in the waters surrounding Hawaii, it isn’t surprising that whale watching can be combined with other sea-based activities that focus on wildlife. In Hawaii, this other activity is for the most part snorkeling.

Whale watching cruises combined with snorkeling:
Blue Water Rafting
Pride of Maui
Four Winds II Snorkeling Adventures

These three companies are the only ones we found that specifically offer a type of snorkeling and whale watch combo, but during the humpback season, there is a decent chance you’ll see whales even if your snorkeling tour (or other ocean activity, like a sportfishing trip) isn’t expressly concerned with whale watching. You can even see whales just ferrying between the islands, like when you cross the Auau Channel to get from Maui to Lanai on the Expeditions ferry.

Yet another way you can see whales is through a boat chartering company. There are no doubt many people who have private boats to charter, and perhaps some of these can be used for whale watching, but we were only able to find a couple of companies that specifically advertise their ships for whale watching. Island Star Excursions will rent their ship for half- and full-day whale watching cruises, and Paragon Sailing Charters incorporates whale watching into every chartered tour they offer during the humpback season.

Between all of these different options, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a whale watching cruise that is right for you. If you are only interested in seeing whales, there are a number of companies that are focused accordingly, but you can also integrate whale watching with other activities, like snorkeling, if you so desire. If you are looking for more general information, check out our article on whale watching cruises in Hawaii.

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Whale Watching Cruises from Maui, Hawaii: A Guide
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Whale Watching Cruises from Maui, Hawaii: A Guide
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Almost every Hawaiian Island has whale watching cruises, and this is certainly true of Maui.
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