January 14, 2011 | By Merri Lou Martin
If you were in Maui right now you very likely would see a humpback whale. Maui is your gateway to some of the best whale watching in the world.
The waters off of West Maui and South Maui are shielded by the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala, creating calm and clear waters for high visibility. Humpback whales are also drawn to the area’s shallow waters, less than 600 feet deep, making Maui an ideal spot for the most spectacular whale watching.
Expert guides take you to the best spots to observe whales playfully surfacing, tail slapping, or blowing spouts in the air. Regulations prohibit boats from approaching within 100 yards of a whale and you should never swim with or touch whales.
Lahaina Harbor is home to a wide range of whale watching tours. From charter boats to passenger rafts, a stroll past the whale watching kiosks lining Lahaina harbor reveals a variety of whale watching options. During the peak of whale watching season between January and early April, the pier is abuzz with activity. Tours last roughly 2 – 4 hours long and some even offer early bird specials.
But you don’t have to go on a whale watching tour to spot whales. In fact, there are plenty of areas on Maui where humpbacks can frequently be seen from the shore during whale season. The scenic McGregor Point lookout west of Maalaea and the beaches of Kaanapali, Kihei and Wailea are also great spots to see whales.