Curious about Maui dolphin and whale sightings? While whales are some of the most sought after sites for those visiting Maui this winter, the warm waters along Maui’s coastline are also home to a vast amount of other marine life like turtles, monk seals, and dolphins!
No matter what type of marine tour you choose to book on your Maui vacation— you are assured to see something great (and maybe even unexpected). Just make sure that with whatever adventure you embark on you are being safe, respecting the “aina”, and accept the responsibility that arises with interacting with the wildlife across the main and neighboring islands.
Maui Dolphin and Whale Sightings: Differences Between Whales and Dolphins
If you book a whale watching tour or snorkel tour out of Lahaina’s harbor, you are signing up for a once in a lifetime experience alongside some of the most interesting sea creatures of the Pacific.
While you may see crossover (a tail slap from a whale on your dolphin watch tour in the distance or a spinner dolphin flying out of the water while you are listening to whale songs from one of the male escort whales); there is a difference in the experience you may have on those respective tours.
As of this past year, swimming with dolphins has been made illegal across the state of Hawaii. This doesn’t mean that you cannot have an up close and personal experience with the most playful of the sea life frequenting Maui’s waters. You are also more likely to see dolphins year long!
Whales are only seasonal, the arrive to the warm waters of Maui after traveling from the cold Alaskan waters in order to mate, birth, and raise their calves; then return up North every spring. However, Maui's dolphins are year-round residents and live, feed, mate and birth in Hawaii.
While you won’t see a whale in June you may see a pod of dolphins playing around the upper west side of Maui, or chasing each other around the island of Lanai.
Where to See Dolphins in Maui
Maui’s dolphins are more illusive than other areas of Hawaii like the Big Island; however, that does not mean it is impossible to see a pod on your boating adventure!
In our experience, Maui’s dolphins like to hang out around the upper west side of Maui, past Kaanapali, and in different inlets and bays where they might find more privacy. They also are known to hang out around Lanai, the small island 8 miles from Lahaina, known most for the incredible and diverse marine life and reefs that line it.
While we don’t allow swimming with the dolphins you can always book a snorkel tour to experience the other incredible creatures that live in the vegetation and reef surrounding the island of Lanai— (make sure to always wear reef safe sunscreen like “Raw Love” which we provide free to you on our tours)!
If you are looking to see some dolphins, the mega pods of spinners are easiest to see, as they can travel in groups of 300-1000 animals (lots more splashing with that many animals)! The captains can find pods of multiple species of dolphins any time of year to watch by talking to other captains and years of experience spotting their surface behavior.
Can You Swim With Dolphins on Maui?
While dolphins are more commonly known as playful and friendlier to humans than whales— Hawaii has recently passed a law outlawing swimming with spinner dolphins. This is due to that species nocturnal behavior. Our day time swimming with them interrupts their sleep and feeding patterns and could negatively impact their behavior and population.
There are many other ways that you can get an up close experience with dolphins. By boat they often swim next to us, making the eye-level encounter possible on our low to water rafts. As mentioned, unlike whales they are here all season long; although harder to spot, a good captain will know how to find different pods.
If you are looking for a great ocean experience, on a boat, and are heading to Maui in the summer or late spring month make sure to look into dolphin and boat tours (as you might be so lucky to stumble upon dolphins) along Maui’s west side.