There’s no better place to watch whales than in Maui waters. This is a fact! They come every single year during the winter in order to mate and give birth. Seeing them feed in Alaskan waters is pretty incredible too, but watching the frolic and play at the warm ocean surface can’t be beaten!
Whale Season = December 15th to April 15th
Humpback Whale Behavior
By far the most exciting behavior Humpback whales will display is the breach. This is when they launch nearly all the way out of the water, twist, and land with a massive splash. No one is certain why they do it, but we think they do it cause it’s fun. You’ll notice that babies love to breach over and over again.
The most typical thing you’ll see when watching whales is them blowing air and water out of their blowholes. It comes up like a little explosion of steam. Since Humpbacks are mammals, they need to breathe. Though they can stay under for a very long time, you’ll often see them at the surface.
This is what you’re probably most familiar with when viewing whale pictures. When they arch their tails out of the water, then duck under again, it makes a beautiful cascade of water. This is a common sight to see in Maui and makes for great photos.
This is when a whale floats on its side and slaps its pectoral fin. Usually, in our experience, when a whale does this, they do it repetitively. We’ve watched humpbacks slap over and over again for 20-30 minutes straight. They must like doing it and we love watching it!
See more Whale Behaviors.
If you’re lucky enough to come upon a competition pod, get your camera ready. This is when more than 1 male competes with each other for the attention of a female. Often, you’ll see 3-4 of them following her around and battling with each other along the way. They’ll sometimes breach against each other, making for an incredible display of power. If you get close enough, you’ll notice their little bumps (tubercles) on their nose can be rubbed raw and bleed due to their commotion.
Do I need to go on a boat?
No. You can see the whales from the shore or on the cliffs. On a boat, you’re allowed to get up to 100 yards from whales. Sometimes, they come up to the boat, and the captain will be forced to shut off the engine. This is called a “Mugging.” If this happens to you, be grateful. you may be stuck there for over an hour watching a whale RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR BOAT!!
So, usually being on a boat is better. BUT if you’d rather watch from the shore, a great spot is from the Maui Ocean Center. Not only can you often see spouts on the horizon, but you can also learn about Humpback Whales through interactive exhibits and incredible models and imagery.
Top 5 Whale Watch Tips
• Always be Ready!
From experience, we know that the most spectacular breaches happen when you’re not ready. Often they’ll happen just after leaving the harbor, or when you’re changing your film or grabbing a cocktail.
• Take a Charged Camera.
If you want to get some good pictures, invest in a zoom lens, and use very high shutter speed. Take photos as if you’re at a sporting event.
• Don’t Take a Camera.
Photos are great, but nothing beats watching whales with the naked eye. Again, from experience we’ve had a few whale watches almost ruined because we missed the shot (or got blurry ones) and also missed seeing it with our own eyes. Sometimes mental pictures are worth more.
• Find a Good Spot.
Find a good spot next to the railing, but don’t feel like you have to stay there. If whales are on the other side of the boat, make the trip and see them.
• Try and Find a Boat with a Microphone.
There’s very little cooler than watching whales while listening to them sing live.