AWARD WINNING TOUR

Maui Whale Watching Tour

Whale watch upclose in Maui with eye level viewing on our low-to-water eco-rafts. Small groups tours make every Maui whale watch a family-style tour. Don’t miss Maui’s best whale watching adventure.

Tour Highlights

  • 2 Hour or 1.5 Hour Tours
  • Guaranteed Sightings or Go Again for Free
  • 20 Passengers or Less
  • Eye-Level Whale Encounters
  • Marine Naturalist

TOUR CHANGES SEASON 23/24 DUE TO LAHAINA HARBOR FIRE

Due to the loss of our vessels in the Lahaina Fire we will be operating temporary vessels at temporary locations this season. Please note our temporary boarding location requires guests to have mobility to walk on their own in order to safely board the boat.
Mahalo for joining us for the same great small group whale watch tours!

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Post-Fire Temporary Vessel

Eco-Raft Tours


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Tour Capacity

20 Pax Small Group Tour


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Vessel Features

35’ Zodiac RHIB Raft

Adventure Ride

Low-to-Water Seat Viewing

75% Shade

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Post-Fire Temporary Vessel

Ocean Monohull Tours


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Tour Capacity

20 Pax Small Group Tour


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Vessel Features

34’ Ocean Monohull Powerboat

Smoother Ride and Easy Loading

360 Stadium Seating Viewing

60% Shade

2 Hour Whale Watch ADULT/CHILD

$74/$67

1.5 Hour Whale Watch ADULT/CHILD

$64/$57
Private charter options available!

Select Private Charter option or call direct to book.

Eye-level whale watching in Maui. Guaranteed whale sightings or go again!

Encounter humpback whales in the wild on our 2 hour Maui whale watching tours departing from Mala Boat Ramp, Lahaina with an easy check-in at Dive Maui shop located on Front Street. Our ocean raft and monohull are low to the water for eye-level whale viewing and offer a family-style experience with 20 or less passengers onboard. Humpback whales return to the warm Hawaiian waters every year during the winter months of December through April for their mating and calving season. The majority of them find a home in the calm waters around the island of Maui where they are federally protected. While we cannot approach them closer than 100 yards, the whales often approach our small rafts for those up-close and eye-level whale encounters.

Our whale watch tour includes a full narration of interesting whale and Maui facts by our marine naturalist, listening to whale songs on a hydrophone and lots of photo ops.

Features

  • 2 Hour Tour and Discount 1.5HR Tour
  • Guaranteed Whale Sightings or Go Again Free
  • Small Group – Approx. 20 Passengers
  • *NEW Temporary Departure from Mala Ramp, Lahaina
  • Marine Naturalist Guide sharing educational information
  • Purified Water & Biodegradable Cups

Tour Options

  • 2HR Eye-Level Whale Watch is our most popular tour and operates in the morning and at sunset.
  • 1.5HR Discount Mid-Day Tour is our discount tour for budget travelers. Whale sightings are the same, it’s just a shorter mid-day tour.

Departures

Seasonal December-April (Check-in 30 minutes prior to departure time.)

• Rafting Vessel Tour Departures- 7am, 9:30am, 12pm, 2:30pm, 4:30pm
Check-in at Dive Maui Shop, 1223 Front St, Lahaina
• Monohull Vessel Tour Departure- 6:20am, 8:50am, 11:20am, 1:35pm, 3:35pm

Directions

Check-in at Dive Maui Shop, 1223 Front St, Lahaina. Parking at Longs at Lahaina Cannery Mall. Park and walk toward the ocean to Front Street. Make a left and walk over the bridge. The dive shop is on the right, next to Snorkel Bob’s blue building.

Whats Included

Hydrophone for listening to whale songs.

Marine Naturalist Guides will share educational information about Maui and humpback whales

What to Bring Whale Watching

Bring a hat, sunglasses, reef safe sunscreen or a sun shirt! BYOB ok, just no glass containers.

Adventure style rafts receive ocean spray onboard so prepare to get wet! Dress accordingly and bring a waterproof bag for personal items.

Camera or GoPro to take photos and videos of whales

Gratuity for crew (Venmo accepted!)

Policies & Participant Restrictions

Due to our style of vessel and activities, no children under 3 on tours, no pregnant or persons with back or neck injuries. Our temporary boarding location requires guests to have mobility to walk on their own in order to safely board the boat.

Please no spray sunscreen, rub on reef safe sunscreen is welcome! At least 24 hour notice for cancellations and refunds.

For parties of 5 or more and semi-private tours, 72 hours notice is required. 7 day notice for private charters.

Tours may be canceled or rescheduled by Hawaii Ocean Rafting due to capacity or weather. Humpback whales are in their natural habitat, encounters vary

2 Hour Whale Watch  Adult/Child

$74/$67

1.5 Hour Whale Watch  Adult/Child

$64/$57

Kaamaina discount available with HI Driver License

Private charter options available!

Select Private Charter option or call direct to book.

“Whale Watching at its Best!”

“The knowledge and love of what they do, made for an unforgettable experience ! From the friendliness of the ticket taker Bree (she even let me charge my phone at her booth), to the knowledge of the captain Zac (who knew just where to go to spot whales ), and the marine expert on board Elah (who answered every question fired at her) made this one of my favorite activities in Hawaii. And the actual videos I got of the magnificent whales, was the best ! Thanx Zac, Elah and Bree !!”


– Ed, TripAdvisor

"First Time Whale Watching!"

“It was first time whale watching for myself, wife and 4-year old son. Captain and his assistant were super knowledgeable about whales and the location. Despite tail end of the season we had multiple sighting in close proximity. Boat ride was pretty smooth. Overall fun and educational experience!”


-Oleksiy, AirBnB

"Bucket List Trip!"

“This experience is bucket list worthy. 10+ whales surrounded us and we were lucky enough to have extremely close encounters with these amazing animals. The smaller boat makes all the difference too. I would recommend this to absolutely anyone!”


-Odyssey792210, TripAdvisor

Lahaina Harbor Tours Wildfire Update

This season is going to look a little different as we make some adjustments after the fires took our home, boats and our beloved Harbor.
We are thankful will be resuming whale watching tours this season starting December 1st, 2023.

There will be a temporary change in departure location and alternative vessels for this season 23/24. We will not be operating from Lahaina Harbor or on our rafts, but it will still be a small group experience and with our same amazing crew.

We cannot thank you enough for supporting us until Lahaina Harbor and our rafts are back again.
Hope to see you on the water with us this season as we heal and rebuild together.

Mahalo,
Peter & Toni-Owners/Lahaina Residents

Related Tours

SEMI-PRIVATE TOURS

2.5-4 HOURSAGES 4+

$129+

Maui Snorkel & Dolphin Tours

Cruise Maui with 14 or less passengers on small group eco-rafts. Snorkel with turtles and venture to Lanai for dolphin watching.

MEMBER SAVINGS

JOIN OUR OHANA

$495+

HIOCR Ohana Memberships

Become a monthly member or buy a weekly pass, save on tours and become a part of our rafting ohana!

Best of Whale

Watching in Maui.

Answers to best time of day and best month to see whales, when the weather is best for whale watching, where to see whales in Maui and so much more.

About our Maui Whale Watch Tour

2HR Maui Whale Watch Tour & Discount Whale Watch

Adventure Whale Watch Tour. Eco-Rafting Vessels.

Depart Lahaina Harbor and search for whales along Maui’s coast and towards the island of Lanai.

bserve the Northern Pacific Humpback Whale displaying behaviors related to mating and raising their young.

Listen to whale songs on our hydrophone onboard.

earn about Maui, humpback whales and Hawaiian history from your Marine Naturalist Guide.v

Small group rafting whale watch tour for <16 guests. Low-to-water rafting vessels allow for eye-level whale encounters. Guaranteed whale sighting or go again free. Whale encounters vary in their natural habitat.

What’s included in your Maui Whale Watch Tour

Hydrophone for listening to whale songs. Educational talks by our Marine Naturalist. Complimentary Reef Safe Sunscreen available. Purified water and biodegradable cups onboard.

What to Bring on Your Whale Watch Tour

Bring towels, hat, sunglasses, reef safe sunscreen or a sun shirt! BYOB ok, just no glass containers.

Expect to get wet on the rafting tour. Dress accordingly and bring a waterproof bag for personal items.

Camera or GoPro for photos and videos Gratuity for crew (Venmo accepted)

Restrictions & Cancellation Policy

Due to our style of vessel and activities, no children under 3 on tours, no pregnant or persons with back or neck injuries.

Please no spray sunscreen, rub on reef safe sunscreen is welcome.

At least 24 hour notice for cancellations and refunds. For parties of 5 or more, 72 hours notice is required.

Tours may be canceled or rescheduled by Hawaii Ocean Rafting due to capacity or weather.

Maui Whales FAQ

What to know about encountering humpback whales on your tour.

Why the best way to whale watch is by raft!

We’ve been sharing our award winning Maui whale watching tours for more than 30 years with visitors from around the world.

Our rafting vessels are low to the water, giving guests the opportunity for eye-level encounters with humpback whales. Our rafts are small-group tours for <16 or less guests, giving every guest an oceanfront seat on the boat. The small group also means one-on-one education with our marine naturalists who are sharing info and answering questions about Maui’s amazing humpback whales. The humpback whale migration to Maui is one of the most popular reasons to visit Maui. From December to April, humpback whales migrate to Maui, most residing in the Maui Nui Basin located between Lahaina, Maui and Lanai. Encountering humpback whales in the wild is something you don’t want to miss while visiting Maui!

Whales (Kohola) in Hawaiian history

While Kohola (whales) have been a part of Hawaiian culture since the beginning as reflected in the chant of creation which tells the story of the birth of the whales in the ocean, they are rarely mentioned in legends and only a few petroglyphs have been found with images of whales. Historians don’t know if this is due to there being fewer whales in Hawaii previously or if they were considered sacred and their information kept secret.

Kohola also refers to a flat reef which can resemble a whale when the waves wash over the reef causing spray similar to a whale spout. An earlier Hawaiian word for whales was palaoa, more specifically referring to sperm whales.

Two of Hawaii’s few whale petroglyphs can be found on Maui and Lanai. The whale depiction on Lanai is located at Palaoa Hill, the other whale drawing can be found in Olowalu, Maui.

When toothed whales washed ashore, their teeth were considered prized possessions and were made into leis for ali’i (royalty). Other items like fish hooks were also made from their teeth.

Whales or Koholoa are also considered ‘aumakua in Hawaiian culture, ancestors that have returned as spirit guides and guardians for their ohana. Entire species were not considered ’aumakua, rather a special encounter with a particular animal may indicate the presence of an ancestor seeking to communicate, comfort or assist their family. The ‘aumakua wouldn’t perma- nently reside within that animal, rather they can possess both inanimal and living things to be there for their family.

Humpback whale behavior

Humpback whales migrate from Alaska back to Maui every year to mate, give birth and raise their young. Surface behavior displays communication between males competing for a female in a competition pod, male and females trying to get the attention of the other and mom teaching their young.

Some of the most frequent whale behaviors you will see have moves that have been given names!

Pec Fin Slap

Humpback whales will use their large (sometimes up to 15 feet) pec fins to make noise while slapping the surface of the water. This big splash gets the attention of other whales and of course whale watchers! Often they repeat this move dozens of times! Breach

The famous breach is a fan favorite. Hard to imagine a 40 ton animal propelling itself out of the water in one intense leap, but that’s what breaching is! Swimming up to 18 mph gives the whale enough momentum to breach. Researchers speculate that whales breach to clean themselves and remove things like barnacles. They also believe they breach to communicate, exercise

and just have fun!

Head Lunge

Humpback whales most frequently use head lunges when fighting with other male whales in a competition pod. They will often lunge their heads out of the water to also clean themselves and communicate.

Spy Hop

When a humpback whale sticks it’s nose out of the water it’s called a spy hop. This move allows them to look above the water, often curious whales will do this near the whale watching boat. In that case we wonder who is actually watching who!

Mugging

When a humpback whale decides to approach a vessel within the 100 yard boundaries we refer to this as a mugging. To protect the whale, vessels turn off engines and allow the whale to “mug” the boat, while onlookers get to enjoy this amazing close whale encounter.

Where to see whales in Maui

While humpback whales can be seen almost anywhere on Maui, the majority of humpback whales reside along the west coast of Maui, in front of Lahaina Harbor.

Because of the shallow water between Maui and her neighbor island of Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe, the Maui Nui Basin became the residing place of choice for the majority of humpback whales migrating to Hawaii. The reef along Maui’s west coast and Lahaina, known as Olowalu is a favorite resting place for moms with calves. The milder weather in Lahaina due to the protected West Maui mountains,also makes it the top place to whale watch from. This is also why the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary designated these waters a protected place for humpback whales.

From shore you can see whales along the Pali and pull off to watch at the McGregor Point parking lot overlooking Maalaea Harbor. During peak migration months you can watch whales breaching from your balcony if you are staying in Lahaina, Kaanapali or the upper west side of Maui.

For closer whale encounters boat tours take you to search for whales displaying active surface behavior. While we do not approach whales closer than federal regulations, often whales will come to our boats, making for eye-level experience on our low to water rafting style vessels.

What makes whale watching on a raft the best whale watching tour?

The number one reason rafts are the best way to whale watch is the low-to -water style of the vessel. When humpback whales choose to approach a boat, instead of looking over a railing 4-8 feet above the whale, you are eye-level with the whale, getting splashed on or putting your waterproof camera in the water for epic video captures of underwater activity.

Second reason rafts are the most popular way to whale watch are the smaller group tours. Every tour is family style with 16 or less guests, making every seat front row to the ocean and whale activity. You also have a chance to get to know your crew and other whale watchers, sharing the adventure and making memories!

What kind of whales do we see whale watching?

Although we may see dolphins or other rare toothed whales like pseudo orcas, the Northern Pacific humpback whales are our primary focus for our Maui whale watching tours. Northern Pacific humpback whales migrate between Maui and Alaska every year, coming back to Maui to mate and give birth (and maybe for a tropical vacation).

What kind of whale encounters can we expect?

Although humpback whales are wild and we cannot predict their activity or behavior, our captains and marine naturalists have many years of experience observing whales and finding the most active whales to watch in Maui’s warm waters.

Whale behavior you may observe includes whale tails (also called flukes), pec fin slaps, head lunges and the famous breach! Sometimes humpback whales even approach our boats closely and check us out! This is called a mugging and only happens when the whale chooses to approach us as we closely follow Federal Regulations which do not allow us to approach humpback whales closer than 100 yards.

There is no time of day when whales are more active. Their activity patterns are 24 hours a day. We cannot predict what whales will do or where they will be. Observing humpback whales in the wild is an adventure and every tour is different!

No matter the encounter, observing these 40 ton, 40 foot gentle giants is a once in a lifetime experience on your Maui vacation!

When is the best time to go whale watching?

Humpback whales migrate to Maui from Alaska every winter to mate and give birth. Their trickle migration begins in late fall and ends in the spring. We start to see enough whales to whale watch in Maui starting in December and continue tours into April!

Best time of day to whale watch is anytime!

Whales go through periods of activity and rest 24 hours of day so they can also be seen any time of day in Maui, and our sunrise to sunset whale watch tours give you any option that best fits your vacation schedule!

What is the best weather for whale watching?

Lahaina is also located on the leeward side of the West Maui Mountains, creating the most consistent and driest weather on the island of Maui. This means we have the most sunny days on Maui, making it the best place to snorkel in Maui! Often it will be raining in Wailea or Kaanapali and be dry in Lahaina. Because we are a tropical island, weather reports are rarely accurate more than 24 hours out and we use special NOAA and sailing weather reports to get the most accurate weather for our Maui snorkel destinations. With that in mind, we will reschedule Maui snorkel tours due to weather if it will be unpleasant or unsafe for our guests.

Why Humpback
Whales choose Maui.

Humpback whales have a special place in Maui’s history and now Maui is their sanctuary.

Temporary Departure Location Season 23/24

Mala Boat Ramp Tour Departures

Check-in: 30 minutes prior to departure time. 

Dive Maui Shop, 1223 Front Street (next to Snorkel Bob’s).

Parking: *No* parking at Mala Ramp. Park nearby on Front Street or near Longs/Safeway.

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Our mission is to provide a fun, authentic, aloha filled, Maui ocean experience that educates and inspires visitors to love and respect Hawaiian culture, the ocean and our island.

New Temporary Location: Dive Maui Shop, 1223 Front Street, Lahaina, HI 96761

Parking: Front Street or in Lahaina Cannery Mall parking lot.

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