I had never been to Maui before, but in the last 18 months, I have been twice and am planning another trip soon!
Maui is well-known for its stunning beaches, lush forests, and amazing wildlife. One of the most popular reasons to visit Maui is to experience its whale season. Every year, thousands of humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii, making Maui one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. If you're planning a trip to Maui during whale season, here are my travel tips to help make your trip a success.
Best Time to Visit Maui for Whale Season
Whale season in Maui typically runs from December to May, with the peak season being from January to March. This is the best time to visit if you want to see the most whales, but it's also the busiest (and most expensive) time of the year.
Where to Stay in Maui for Whale Season
There are many different areas in Maui to stay in, but if you're visiting during whale season, it's best to stay on the west side of the island. Lahaina and Kaanapali are popular areas for whale watching, as well as the nearby town of Kihei.
I recommend staying in a place with at least a small kitchen so that you can prepare your own meals while there. Food is expensive in Maui! Spending a little time to go grocery shopping and to cook for yourself will save you a lot of money. Plus, I find it way more relaxing as I can eat when I want and not have to deal with restaurants. Though I do recommend going out for dinner at least once during your stay – a must for me is to visit Duke's Beach House for a Hula Pie!
We stayed both times at the The Aston Mahana at Kaanapali as it's right on the water and provided everything we needed – including beach chairs, umbrella, and snorkeling gear! Plus the atmosphere is more private apartments than a resort. We never had a single issue with noise or crowding, it felt like we just had our own condo.
Whale Watching Tours in Maui
For Christmas, I gifted my girlfriend a whale watching tour. There are a lot of companies offering sail boat tours in Maui, so it can be hard to know which one to choose. I actually waited until just a couple days before to book as I wanted to keep our schedule a little flexible as we were there to relax.
One of the most important things to me about the tour, is that it wouldn't be crowded. And after some research I found Sail Maui had a catamaran with an all-female crew and great reviews. I knew this would make my girlfriend happy and they did not disappoint!
We chose the breakfast cruise, which thankfully to jetlag, did not feel like it was too early in the morning. As we boarded the boat, we noticed ours had quite a few less passengers than the others, and that's just they way we like it! The crew was fantastic and provided mimosas and banana bread for breakfast!
Getting Closer By Hopping On A Paddleboard
Throughout our week from our balcony, we noticed dozens of people paddleboarding off of Kaanapali Beach and just about everyone had an experience with a whale. After seeing a humpback surface right next to our boat on the whale watching cruise, we knew we had to go rent a board for a day.
There are plenty of shops to rent from, and even some that will deliver right to your hotel. We chose Boss Frogs since it was right down the street from us.
I do not condone nor suggest any activities that may cause harm to whales, paddleboarding with whales could potentially cause harm and disruption to their natural environment. However, if you're in an area where it's legal and safe to paddleboard with whales, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Do Your Research: Make sure you're aware of the rules and regulations for paddleboarding with whales in your area. Familiarize yourself with the behavior of whales and how to avoid disturbing them.
Keep a Safe Distance: Respect their space and avoid approaching them head-on or blocking their path. Federal law states that no one may approach a humpback whale within 100 yards in Hawaiian waters. Though that doesn't stop them from approaching you. If they do, just stay still. From our experience they just swim underneath you.
Stay Quiet and Be Patient: Avoid making loud noises or sudden movements that could startle the whales. Paddle quietly and smoothly to avoid disturbing them.
Use Appropriate Gear: Wear appropriate paddleboarding gear, including a leash, life jacket, and wetsuit. Avoid wearing bright colors or shiny jewelry that could attract the attention of whales.
Respect the Environment: Do your part to protect the environment by avoiding littering and minimizing your impact on the surrounding ecosystem.
Remember that paddleboarding with whales can be an incredible experience, but it's important to do so safely and responsibly. Since they aren’t traveling to a specific destination during their time in Hawaii, the trajectory of a whale is unpredictable, leading to up close and absolutely awe inspiring encounters (see whale selfie below). While a whale could potentially knock you off a boat, kayak or paddle board, they are also extremely smart creatures. Give them plenty of space and respect, the odds of being knocked off your paddle board are very low. Always prioritize the well-being and safety of the whales and their natural environment.