Every fall, over 5,000 humpback whales migrate from the rich, cold waters off Japan and Alaska to Maui. Protected from large swells by the islands of Kaho'olawe, Lana'i, and Moloka'i, the warm water off Maui's south and west shores provide a perfect sanctuary for females giving birth and nursing newborn calves. Males make the long journey with the females, forming rowdy groups that fight for the chance to mate, often treating attentive watchers to powerful surface displays that include breaching and tail or pectoral fin slaps. Locals affectionately refer to the ocean as "whale soup" during the peak of the whale season because it is impossible to gaze out over the water without seeing a whale.
Visitors to Maui interested in learning more about humpbacks and the National Marine Sanctuary created for them can visit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center in Kihei. Several displays highlight the importance of humpback whales from both a scientific and cultural perspective. Scientists and volunteers give a "45-Ton Whale Talk" every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 am that is very informative, but also interactive enough to appeal to kids. A viewscope, located on the deck of the main building, allows for excellent looks at the whales just off shore.
Whales start arriving in Maui in late November and are generally gone by the end of April. Peak whale season occurs between January and March.
- Monday through Friday: 10am to 3pm
- Closed weekends
- Location: 726 South Kihei Road, Kihei, HI
- Phone: 808-879-2818 or 800-831-4888
- Website: hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov