Aside from searching for the best vacation rentals in Maui, one of the important things to plan on your holiday to the island is the activities to include in your itinerary. There are many fun things to do on your vacation to Maui, but the most popular of them is to go whale watching.
Every winter, humpback whales from Alaska will make their way to Maui to enjoy the island’s warmer waters, allowing Maui visitors to witness these amazing creatures up close. The waters between the islands of Maui, Molokai, Kaho’olawe, and Lanai are some of the best places to watch the whales as they mate, date, and give birth.
Technically, you can see whales from any Hawaiian island, but you’ll have the best experience when whale watching on Maui. That’s because the majority of the whales would prefer to migrate to the warm and shallow waters of the Auau Channel, which lies between Maui, Lanai, and Molokai.
The most popular way to enjoy whale watching on the island is to join one of the Maui whale-watching tours, where you hop on a boat for a closer encounter with the whales. But it’s also possible to view these amazing creatures from different places on the Maui shore, without going on a tour.
Here are some of the best places for whale watching in Maui.
Makena State Park
The is home to Makena Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on Maui. Lying in the south of Wailea, the park is home to three separate beaches, including a dormant volcanic cinder cone. Aside from the Makena Beach, the park is also home to Little Beach and Big Beach, popular spots for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Visitors staying in one of the beachfront vacation rentals of Wailea may also be lucky to spot some whales.
While it’s possible to see the whales from the shore of Makena State Park, many people prefer a higher vantage point by climbing up towards Pu’u Ola’i, a cinder cone just behind the Little Beach. Here, you will find a dried lava flow ridge separating the Big Beach from the Little Beach, where you can enjoy a fantastic vantage point.
Maui Nui Basin
If you prefer to book one of the Maui whale-watching tours, your tour will likely take you to the Maui Nui Basin. It refers to the waters between Maui, Kaho’olawe, and Lanai. The area has been designated a protected sanctuary for the whales, allowing humpback whales to go about their winter activities with no distraction. These waters are located directly across Lahaina and Kaanapali, which means that tours going here will most likely depart from Lahaina Harbor.
Whale watching tours that operate out of Lahaina Harbor will take visitors directly to the waters of the whale sanctuary. These tours are fun and educational and a great opportunity to get a closer view of the whales playing in the water. There are several different options available to book. Depending on your group, you can choose to head out to the shores on a sailboat, catamaran, outrigger canoe, or a kayak.
Another popular whale watching spot on Maui is on the west side of , which is a convenient option if you’re staying in a vacation condo in Maalaea. It’s located between the mile markers 8 and 9, off the Honoapiilani Highway, the main highway around West Maui. The observation point is close to the southernmost portion of the road. This lookout observation point is also called the McGregor Point Lookout, named after the lighthouse nearby.
In the winter, the whale watching season, the whales are visible nearby. During this time, a naturalist from the Pacific Whale Foundation would come here most days, from 8 AM to 2 PM. They will be showcasing demonstrations and exhibits about the whales. Visitors will also have the opportunity to use their binoculars to view the whales. Aside from the chance to witness the whales, the view here is breathtaking. As you look out into Maalaea Bay, you’ll get a glimpse of the vast ocean waters, including the islands of Kahoolawe and Molokini. On an especially clear day, you can even view the Big Island of Hawaii from here!
Olowalu is a small community on the west side of Maui, home to the, a popular snorkeling spot on the island. But aside from snorkeling, many people would come here for whale watching. The village has a scenic viewing area uphill where you can witness some majestic humpback whales playing in the ocean waters.
Located five miles south of Lahaina, along the Honoapiilani Highway, Olowalu is an ideal spot for water sports enthusiasts. To get to the viewing point, drive towards the Olowalu General Store and follow the dirt road behind the store to go uphill and enjoy incredible ocean views while keeping an eye out for the whales. While in Olowalu, don’t miss the opportunity to take up some water sports. It’s a popular spot for kayaking, which is also an exciting way to get up close to the whales. During your kayaking adventure, you’ll be paddling straight out into the channel, where you can wait for the whales to appear.
If you come to Maui in winter, there are many spots to enjoy whale watching without booking a whale watching tour. In fact, if you are staying in one of the oceanfront condos in Maui, you could be lucky to spot the whales from your balcony. But if you want to enjoy the best whale watching experience and see the whales up-close, booking a Maui whale watching tour is highly recommended.
It’s also possible to witness the whales from the shore of Maui’s beautiful beaches. Although you can catch a glimpse of the whales any time of the day, it is best to come here before noon or sunset when the water is calm and the sky is clear. If it’s windy and the water is choppy, you may not enjoy many whale sightings.