Maui is situated along the Auau channel, which also includes Molokai and Lanai. Each winter, tourists and locals alike visit the channel for a chance to spot the majestic humpback whales returning to breed and raise their calves.
It should come as no surprise that Maui whale watching tours are among the most popular activities on the island every year. However, not all whale watching tours are the same.
What to Look For in a Whale Watching Tour
When browsing the available Maui whale watching tours, there are a few things to keep an eye out for.
Whale watching watercraft are required to stay a minimum of 100 feet away from the whales at all times. This is for the safety of the whales and all those onboard. But, the type of boat or vessel used for your tour can also make or break your experience.
While most tours use large boats such as catamarans or even yachts, others use smaller boats to accommodate smaller group sizes. If you’d rather have a smoother ride and don’t mind a crowd, choose tours which utilize a larger boat.
However, if you’re up for an adventure, check out the raft or sailboat tours available. Keep in mind, smaller boats may not be able to access certain parts of the channel for the safety of those on board. Often the smaller vessels cannot handle the strength of the ocean at various areas along the channel or Maui coast.
Maui whale watching tours depart at almost every time of day. Whether you want to watch the sunrise over the ocean or enjoy an afternoon sail, there’s a tour for that!
Make sure you double check the time of your scheduled tour. You don’t want to accidentally book a sunrise tour thinking it’s a sunset sail!
Since whale watching tours can last anywhere from two to four hours, I suggest making this the main portion of your day and scheduling other Maui activities and things to do around it.
The Tour Operator
Maui boasts several reputable whale watching tour operators, from the Pacific Whale Foundation to the Pride of Maui. In addition, there are several smaller, independent tour operators on the island.
Before booking, do your research to make sure you’re reserving a tour with an experienced tour operator who practices the utmost safety. Browsing customer reviews is a great way to judge the experience of previous tour participants.
In addition to reviewing the previously mentioned factors, your decision will ultimately come down to price. Look for whale watching cruises which meet your travel budget.
On the other hand, several cruises also offer additional activities such as snorkeling, Hawaii history lessons, and even scuba diving. If a cruise seems a little pricey, do a bit more research to determine if it includes extra activities along the way.
Which Maui Whale Watching Tours Should I Book?
Wondering which whale watching cruises are available on Maui? Choose from the top whale watching tour operators.
Pacific Whale Foundation
The Pacific Whale Foundation offers a multitude of various whale watching cruises on Maui. Each tour includes narration and a Q&A session with the foundation’s certified Marine Naturalists. Along the way, they’ll tell you more about the humpback whales, their history, and the foundation’s 33 years worth of whale research.
The company’s high-tech catamarans provide a smooth adventure along the coastline and provide guests the chance to listen to whale songs via underwater hydrophones!
A few of the available whale watching tours from the Pacific Whale Foundation include:
- Whale Watching Tour from Lahaina
- Sunrise Whale Watch Tour from Lahaina
- Whale Watch Sail Deluxe
- Whale Watching Tour from Maalaea
Kaanapali Ocean Adventures
Would you rather search for whales off the coast of Maui in private? Reserve a private yacht cruise from Kaanapali Ocean Adventures! Their Private Charter Humpback Whale Watch & Dolphin Search cruise accommodates up to 32 passengers and is available from December through April each year.
Along the way, you’ll see baby humpback whales learning to navigate the waters, humpback whale breaches, and Maui’s breathtaking coastal wonders. Guests are encouraged to bring cameras, GoPros, and smartphones onboard to capture their experience.
Pride of Maui
Pride of Maui provides visitors with a one-of-a-kind whale watching experience. On top of a two-hour cruise, you’ll spend time snorkeling in one of Maui’s magnificent coral reefs. Just remember to wear reef safe sunscreen while you snorkel!
The Maui Whale Watching Snorkel Tour steers a glass bottom boat along Maui’s coastline in search of humpback whales. The vessel also includes two restrooms, a water slide, submerged boarding ladders, a bar, open deck space, and onboard showers.
Your tour also includes food and beverages along with complimentary hotel transportation (depending on where you’re staying on the island.)
Sail Trilogy Tours
Sail Trilogy whale watching tours depart from several locations on Maui including Maalaea, Lahaina, and Ka’anapali Beach. These two-hour Maui whale watching tours include onboard naturalists dedicated to educating guests about the marine animals and the island. On specific cruises, the Whale Trust Maui non-profit group joins guests for further information and knowledge.
Plus, while onboard, guests can listen to the mesmerizing whale songs through hydrophones. And if all that whale watching makes you hungry, the cruises serve light appetizers along with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Sail Trilogy tours are limited to smaller groups, so be sure to reserve your spot ASAP if their tours interest you!
Maui Boat Trips
Interested in longer, more in-depth Maui whale watching tours? If so, then sign up for a tour with Maui Boat Trips! In addition to whale watching, their cruises include visits to Molokini Crater, Turtle Town, and dolphin watching opportunities.
Since the 4.5-hour tour begins a bit earlier in the day, Maui Boat Trips also include a continental breakfast and savory lunch! Come hungry and ready to search for humpback whales.
Remember to bring binoculars and dress in layers. The early mornings out on the ocean can be a bit chilly!
Hawaii Ocean Project
Hawaii Ocean Project embarks on several whale watching tours each day from Lahaina Harbor. Each 2-hour tour includes narration by expert naturalists, open air and closed viewing areas, and a smooth ride thanks to the boat’s large structure.
Along the way, you’ll keep an eye out for humpback whales and listen to whale songs through hydrophones.
Hawaii Ocean Project advises passengers to bring reef safe sunscreen, binoculars, a camera, and extra cash for drinks and snacks onboard (if desired.)
Book Your Whale Watching Tour ASAP
Since Maui whale watching tours are only offered on a seasonal basis, cruise reservations fill up fast each year. If you’re interested in embarking on a whale watching adventure in Maui, book your spot now!