Humpback Whales In Hawaii

MAUI Whale Season Maui Hawaii

October & November – First Maui Hawaii whale sightings

December – March, Whale season

February – Peak season

Without a doubt, one of Maui Hawaii the most amazing marine wildlife adventures you’ll ever have the opportunity to partake in is a chance to witness the majesty of the North Pacific humpback whales in their natural environment Year, after year, these magical mammals grace Hawaiian waters and shorelines for their annual Winter migration through the North Pacific Ocean (roughly November-March).

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Since the early 1970s, the North Pacific humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have been under protection by a variety of national and international agreements.

The principal U.S. agreements are the Maui Hawaii Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA), the Endangered Species Act of 1973 by the NOAA (National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration), and the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna And Flora Treaty (CITES) of 1973.

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North Pacific humpback whales are the fifth largest whale species in the world and can weigh anywhere between 25-40 tons (50,000 -80,000 lbs), and approximately 1 ton (2,000 lbs) as newborns.


minutes is the maximum dive time

80.00036 200

poundskg is the weight of an adult whale, equal to 6 elephants


minutes a male humpback’s song often lasts


poundskg a whale calf can grow every day


years is average life expectancy

3.5005 632

mileskilometers humpback whales migrate each year

Humpback whales can grow up to 60 feet in length, the females being larger sized of the breed.

Their upper (dorsal) body is primarily a dark shade of grey, with distinct areas of white on their flippers (pectoral fins) and under (ventral) bellies. On average, the North Pacific humpback whale can live for about 50 years (although there have been accounts living up to 90 years), and reach sexual maturity between 5-7 years old.


Hawaiian History


Kohola (Humpback Whales) have been visiting Hawaii since the ancient Polynesian Era, 1-600 AD.

18th Century





Early 1900s




Ancient kahunas (priests) would recite the Kumulipo chant—the Hawaiian chant

of creation—the second section tells the birth of the whale: “Hanau ka palaoa

noho I kai”— born is the whale living in the ocean.

Mistaken as the Lono (God associated with fertility),

James Cook was greeted upon his arrival to Hawai’i.

Hawai‘i’s whaling era begins when two New England ships become the first

whaling ships to arrive in the Hawaiian Islands.

Whale products are in high demand.

The whaling industry is prominent in the

island economy for about 40 years.

The end of the whaling industry is brought about by the discovery of

a new type of oil in Pennsylvania which replaces whale oil.

The global population of humpbacks is depleted

by the commercial whaling industry.

The United States government makes it yasadışı to hunt, harm, or disturb

humpback whales. The Endangered Species Act is passed. The humpback

whale is listed as endangered.

Congress enacts the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine

Sanctuary, recognizing the vital role the Hawaiian Islands have in the

preservation of endangered humpback whales.

The Sanctuary is managed in an equal partnership by the National Oceanic

and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the State of Hawai‘i.

Archeologists have found Hawaiian petroglyphs (ancient carvings on stone) that represent proof that humpback whales have historically frequented the Hawaiian Islands. Kohola petroglyphs were found in Olowalu on Maui, Pohue on the Big Island, and Palaoa Hill (Whale Hill) on the Island of Lanai. The petroglyphs depict an ancient human figure riding the back of a whale.

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Hawaii’s North Pacific humpback whales travel over 3,500 miles from Alaskan waters to Hawaiian oceans every year during their annual Winter migration.

Marine scientists have noted that they can travel between 3-7 miles per hour, with very few stops. It is believed that each one-way journey can take up to 4-6 weeks, and as little as 36 days. It is also believed that an average of 8,000-10,000 humpback whales visit Hawaii every year, and the number is growing with the increase in population.

Why do the North Pacific

humpback whales migrate

to Hawaii?

The humpbacks travel from the cold Alaskan waters to the warm, subtropical climate of Hawaiian oceans for three main reasons; to breed, to birth, and to raise their young calves in safety. Humpback whales have an 11 to 12-month gestational period, so baby humpback calves are both conceived and birthed in Hawaii. So, it is safe to assume that last season’s breeding, becomes the following season’s birthing. Marine scientists believe that humpback whales enjoy Hawaii’s oceans for the warm waters, the variety of ocean depths, underwater visibility, and the lack of natural predators.


& Birthing

The North Pacific humpback whales mate in Hawaii’s oceans. The humpbacks are known to be polygamous mammals, which means that they are not monogamous but promiscuous breeders.

Males do not play a parental role in the early life of calves, and research has noted that genetic testing shows that over the breeding life of an individual female, calves will have different fathers. Post-mating, female humpback whales, are rarely seen in the presence of the males in which they mated.

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months is a humpback whale gestation period


pounds is an average weight of calves


inch per day is the rate of calves growth



The graceful, magical and intelligent North Pacific humpback whales exhibit a variety of behaviors in and above the ocean surface. In Hawaii, and especially from Maui, spectators have a rare chance to witness their marine skills from the shoreline or on

a fantastic Hawaii whale watching tour.


Adult humpbacks swim to the surface to breathe usually every 10-15 minutes,but they can remain submerged for up to 45 minutes. Humpback calves come to the surface to breathe every 3-5 minutes, so it’s quite common to see them more frequently mid-season. The first way to sight a humpback whale is to look for the blowing spray above the ocean surface; this is the whale breathing!

Spy hop

When a humpback vertically rises above the ocean surface, this is called a spy hop, or a head rise. Marine scientists believe that this is the humpback’s way of sensing what’s going on on the ocean surface. In Hawaii, we think that this is the humpback whale’s way of saying ALOHA.

Tail slap

A tail slap is when a humpback raises its fluke (tail) out of the water and forcefully slaps it on the surface. This can be a repetitive behavior, which marine scientists believe is a warning in whale communication.

Pectoral slap

Humpbacks will slap one or both of their flippers (pectoral fins) against the ocean

surface. This is believed to be a signal for communication between whales.

Head lunge

It is common to see the male humpbacks’ lunge their heads towards and against each

other during aggressive and competitive behavior. This is also called a head slap.

Peduncle throw

This is one of the most uncommonly seen behaviors, mostly exhibited in aggression. A

peduncle throw is when a humpback powerfully throws the lower portion of its body

sideways across the surface of the ocean.

Peduncle arch

A peduncle arch, also known as a ‘round out,’ is one of the most easily spotted behaviors

of the Humpbacks. You don’t see much of the whale, except for a rounded part of their back

skimming over the surface of the ocean as they prepare to dive.

Fluke up dive

Characterized with an even amount of the tail on the surface of the ocean, a fluke up dive

is seen when humpbacks are in an upside down upward arch, slowly rolling into a dive

towards the floor of the ocean.


You will definitely know when you see a humpback whale breaching! This is surely

their most dramatic and acrobatic-like act where they quickly gain speed and launch

their whole body out of the ocean! They powerfully land on the surface of the ocean

with a huge splash!

Fluke down

When a humpback throws his whole tail out of the water and triumphs with a

dramatic slap on the ocean surface, it is called a peduncle slap.

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miles away their singing can be heard


minutes is how long their songs can last


feet below the ocean surface the male’s sing


Whale songs

The North Pacific humpback whales have incredible skill and ritual that is unlike any other whale, they sing underwater, and can be heard from up to 12 miles away.

Not all humpbacks sing; it is only specific males, and those males are lone mammals. They are singular in their species, and it is unknown if these whales breed, or if the skill blossoms at a specific age.

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The Island of Maui is without a doubt the best place to be in Hawaii for whale watching from the shoreline.

You can watch them from your coastal resort, from the lanai (porch/balcony) of your vacation rental or hotel room, or from a scenic lookout. See them from the sand, and be very careful if you are watching them as you are driving. The most common road to see humpback whales breach and play from a distance is on the stretch of Highway 30 between Ma’alaea and Lahaina.

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FAQCan you see whales in Hawaii in October?

Whale sightings are possible in October but are considered rare.

What types of whales are in Hawaii?

North Pacific humpback whales, False killer whales, Sperm whales, Orcas, Cuvier’s beaked whales, Pygmy killer whales, Dwarf killer whales, Short-finned pilot whales, Melon-headed whales

What is the best month to see whales in Maui?

February is peak season for whale watching on Maui.

When can you see whales in Maui?

Humpback whales can be seen as early as October with sightings increasing through November. December through March is considered whale season.

Why do humpback whales go to Hawaii?

Humpback whales migrate every year from Alaska to mate and give birth in the warm waters of Maui.

Maui Hawaii Which Hawaiian island is the best for whale watching?

Maui is the best place to see humpback whales!

What is the best time for whale watching in Hawaii?

Anytime is the best time! But, if you’re looking for the best scenic times, early morning or sunset is considered prime. 11 am to 3 pm yields the best overhead light.

Best Boat Tours

Maui whale watching tours are truly

an exceptional experience!

If you are ready to check out the North Pacific humpback whales in Hawaii, know that there are a variety of ways to experience it, and the best place to do it is on the Island of Maui.

You can book a classic Maui whale watching tour, or a combo whale watching and snorkel tour. You can also see the humpback whales in a calmer atmosphere during a romantic sunset cruise, or a private boat charter.

When whale watching on Maui, you can expect to be on the very best ocean vessel for optimum whale watching and safety. Only with a professional Captain and an expert crew, guests will learn more information about the North Pacific humpback whale; habits, new research and statistics, ways to spot them in the ocean, and a chance to hear a whale song. On a whale watching tour, everything you need can be provided including meals and beverages, snorkel gear, safety equipment and more.

Pride of Maui

Whale Watch Tour

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Pride of Maui

Whale Watch Tour

Enjoy guaranteed humpback whale sightings beautiful scenery, and snorkeling all at once on the Pride of Maui. The trip also boasts anopen bar and grilled lunches.

Pride of Maui

Sunset Whale Watch Cruise

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Pride of Maui

Sunset Whale Watch Cruise

Along with whale watching, you’ll enjoy freshly prepared food, cocktails, and live music all against the backdrop of a fabulous Mauisunset. What more could you ask?

Leilani Whale Watch

Small Group Boat Tour

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Leilani Whale Watch

Small Group Boat Tour

This small group private boat tour features knowledgeable naturalists tohelp educate guests about both Maui and the humpback whales that spend their winters here.

Hawaiian Paddlesports

Whale Watch Tour

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Hawaiian Paddlesports

Whale Watch Tour

See North Pacific humpback whales from a genuinely awe-inspiring perspective, right by the water as you head out in an Outrigger Canoe, Stand Up Paddleboard, or Kayak.

Maui Kayak Adventures

Whale Watch Tour

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Maui Kayak Adventures

Whale Watch Tour

Get up close and personal with the whales by paddling out to greet them.With no engine noise, Kayaks allow viewing whales with less disturbanceto their natural routine.

Redline Rafting Whale

Watching Tour

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Redline Rafting Whale

Watching Tour

See the whales up close on a whale watching Raft tour with Redline Rafting. Small group tours with an onboard marine naturalist and hydrophone to listen to the whales. Three departures daily from Kihei.

Maui Whale Gallery

When you see them with your own eyes, nothing compares. Kohola (humpback whales) are majestic creatures.

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