From November until May, the waters of Hawaii are visited by as many as 10,000 humpback whales, Hawaii's largest seasonal visitors. These humpback whales have migrated to the warm waters of Hawaii from as far north as the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, as far east as Glacier Bay and as far south as the Farallon Islands off the coast of central California.
These humpback whales come to the warm waters of Hawaii where they breed, calve, and nurse their young.
This 3500-mile journey from their summer feeding areas takes between one and two months. It ensures that pregnant females and mothers with new-born calves spend the majority of their time in the relatively warm waters of Hawaii. Humpback calves are both conceived and born near the Hawaiian Islands. (The gestation period for the female is between 10-12 months.)
In 1992, Congress established the waters surrounding the islands of Maui County as a marine sanctuary; an act that is helping Maui's biggest endangered species pull back from the brink of extinction.
Maui's south and west coastlines provide abundant opportunities for watching this endangered species - one of the few places in the world where you can watch the whales from shore. Among the shoreline sites offering vantage points are Pu'u Ola‘i at Makena; the hotels of Wailea, Ka'‘anapali and Kapalua; the Papawai Lookout on the road to Lahaina, near Ma'alaea Harbor; and the waterfront restaurants in Lahaina.
Various companies offer whale watching excursions aboard both power and sail boats. All ocean vessels are required to stay at least 100 yards away from the whales, but as visitors aboard whale-watching cruises will happily tell you, no restrictions keep the whales from coming up to investigate the boats.
Three of my favorite companies for whale watch cruises are the Pacific Whale Foundation, Teralani Sailing and Trilogy Excursions.
Pacific Whale Foundation
300 Maalaea Road, Suite 211
Wailuku , HI 96793
Pacific Whale Foundation website
P.O. Box 12247
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 661-SAIL (7245)
Teralani Sailing website
80 Lahainaluna Road
Lahaina, HI 96761
Trilogy Excursions website