From November through May, whale-watching becomes one of the most popular activities on Maui. During the season, all outfitters offer whale-watching in addition to their regular activities, and most do an excellent job. Boats leave the wharves at Lahaina and Maalaea in search of humpbacks, allowing you to enjoy the awe-inspiring size of these creatures in closer proximity.
As it’s almost impossible not to see whales in winter on Maui, you’ll want to prioritize: is adventure or comfort your aim? If close encounters with the giants of the deep are your desire, pick a smaller boat that promises sightings. Those who think “green” usually prefer the smaller, quieter vessels that produce the least amount of negative impact to the whales’ natural environment. If an impromptu marine-biology lesson sounds fun, go with the Pacific Whale Foundation. Two-hour forays into the whales’ world are around $30. For those wanting to sip mai tais as whales cruise calmly by, stick with a sunset cruise on a boat with an open bar and pupu ($40 and up). Afternoon trips are generally rougher because the wind picks up, but some say this is when the most surface action occurs.
Every captain aims to please during whale season, getting as close as legally possible (100 yards). Crew members know when a whale is about to dive (after several waves of its heart-shape tail) but rarely can predict breaches (when the whale hurls itself up and almost entirely out of the water). Prime-viewing space (on the upper and lower decks, around the railings) is limited, so boats can feel crowded even when half full. If you don’t want to squeeze in beside strangers, opt for a smaller boat with fewer bookings. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, light long sleeves, and a hat you can secure. Winter weather is less predictable and at times can be extreme, especially as the wind picks up. Arrive early to find parking.
The Kaanapali Alii provides quick access to whale watching tours, or you can simply relax on our beachfront lawn to take in the action.
This post is courtesy of Fodor’s Travel News