Humpback whales are Maui’s most famous winter visitors. From about mid-December through mid-April these leviathans cavort in Maui waters.
Their favorite playground is the area stretching from Maalaea Bay and West Maui. Look out at any moment from Kapalua, Ka‘anapali, Lahaina or McGregor Point and you’ll spot the misty spray that comes from the whale’s blow hole. These creatures don’t just breathe. They often do acrobatic routines flinging themselves out of the water, ending with an enormous splash with they slap the surface with their flukes and go into a deep dive.
They come from Alaska waters, a 3,500-mile trip. Females give birth in Maui’s warm waters, and nurse their young before the long journey back to Alaska. They don’t feed in Maui waters, but live off blubber stored from krill in seas near Glacier Bay.
To get close enough to see barnacles on the whale’s belly, you need to take a whale-watching trip. Pacific Whale Foundation specializes in them, and almost every other boat operator offers whale watching. Naturalists are on board, and a hydrophone allows you to hear the whale song. You may hear it snorkeling or diving.
Want to learn more? Visit the Whalers Village Museum at Ka‘anapali or Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary visitor center at Kihei.
You’ll almost certainly get a whale sighting from Lana‘i or Moloka‘i ferries or on snorkel trips to Molokini.