While there is an endless list of possibilities for fun things to do on Maui, nothing compares to getting up close and personal with the largest mammal in the Pacific. Whale watching is a wholly unique and magical experience. When the humpback whales arrive to Maui from the cold waters of the Northern Pacific to birth and raise their young, visitors and locals alike are treated day and night to tail slaps, pec fins waving, and full breaches.

If you are looking to cross not just one, but many, marine experiences off your bucket list, come to Hawaii and book the best Maui whale watching tour today!

What to Expect From a Maui Whale Watching Tour

When you book a small group intimate raft tour to go whale watching you are able to closely interact and pick the brain of a seasoned captain and marine naturalist who are well educated in the diverse sea life in the channels separating the islands of Maui County.

While snorkeling with whales is prohibited-- you have the ability with a small boat and crew to experience these mammals safely, respectably, and sometimes up close (if the whale chooses to come to the boat!).

Many people make the mistake of trying to track down or approach humpback whales on their own. Since the reopening of the island there have been reports of paddle boarders and kayakers from the coastline resorts embarking out and getting within arm’s reach of these creatures. This is illegal and unsafe. While whales are considered gentle, they are giants, and like most mammals they are protective over their young; it is not your fault if you look down and happen to notice one of these 100+ foot beings gliding under you but we advise you try and get away to avoid being accidentally trapped under a breach or arm slap. If you are intentionally approaching whales closer than 100 yards you could face fines and jail time for breaking this federal law that protects humpback whales.

An intimate whale watching tour booked to embark from Lahaina town is our favorite option. You not only are able to get out on the water fast but you can experience whales safely and respectfully as well as intimately because of the small group of guests on the boat and the low to water style vessel, providing eye-level encounters with whales.

Other Maui whale watching tours, like those that leave from Maalaea, are typically larger vessels and groups of people. They draw in crowds that are looking for larger, slower boats. While they are still a great option for those that prefer a cruise-like option or are traveling with a bigger party they may not allot much exposure to these whales existing in their natural habitats.

When to Book a Maui Whale Watching Tour

The whales travel to warmer waters of Maui during the mid fall to late spring months; the peak of whale season occurs from January to March. However, whales have been known to be spotted off Maui’s coasts months before or after this projected timeline; in fact, the first whale of this years (‘22-’23) season was just spotted in September! We start whale watching tours December 1st and typically end around the 15th of April. Whale watching during Christmas vacation on Maui is a popular activity!

While pretty much everywhere else in the United States experiences torrential downfalls or snow during these months, Maui’s waters stay seemingly bath-like. So, if you book your Maui vacation for this winter you not only are able to experience the joys of whale watching but swim the same warm waters that all of the unique sea life does.

How to Prepare for Your Maui Whale Watching Tour

There are a few things you must keep in mind when booking and potentially embarking on a whale watching tour in Maui. Firstly, make sure that you book your tour for the highs of whale watching season to ensure you are able to see plenty of whale activity, book early as this experience is one of the most sought after and tickets sell out fast, and make sure that you are aware of all the safety rules that encompass a trip to Maui as well as a trip out on its waters.

There is a phrase that is commonly said amongst the communities across the islands that make up Maui’s county “Respect the 'Aina”. This encompasses more than just respecting the people and the land of Maui. It also implies respecting the ocean and animal life. Listen to your boat crew, residents, and advisors on your Maui vacation to keep you and the 'Aina safe and sharing aloha.

Whale watching is the most anticipated activity to do in Maui in December, January, February and March every winter!

There are some things that you need to know when booking your whale watching tour here in Maui to ensure that your tour is enjoyable, safe, and respectful to those creatures that have chosen to visit.

Where to See Whales on Maui

The best place to book a whale watching tour in Maui is from Lahaina’s harbor. Lahaina is the former capital of Hawaii located on the west side of Maui at the base of the West Maui Mountains.

Just off of the bustling Front Street (the go-to place for a bite to eat or some great shopping after your tour concludes) is the harbor. Leaving from Lahaina aboard one of the award-winning tour boats means just a five-minute journey to the waters where the mother and baby whales are working on the skills and strength to make their journey back to Alaska.

If you are looking for an immersive and all-encompassing whale watching experience make sure to leave from Lahaina harbor aboard an intimate boat like those we have at Hawaii Ocean Rafting— the most up close, eye level and personal experience you can get while still having a safe and respectful distance from the marine creatures.

What You’ll See on a Maui Whale Watching Tour

Whale watching tours on Maui are special because they can encompass much more than just seeing a couple whales tail slapping and breaching in the distance. If you have booked a tour with an expert like the captains we have staffed at Hawaii Ocean Rafting, you are in for an educational, and maybe even an up-close experience that feels like you are almost in the water with those whales (the encounter is really up to the whales!). The low-to-water style rafting vessels put you right at the water’s edge for an eye level whale experience.

More than that, if you are booking a whale watching tour in Maui you are almost guaranteed an extra show. Whether you are on the boat for two hours or six there is so much more to see in the tropical waters. You may encounter a pod of dolphins skimming alongside the boat or a Honu (turtle) poking their head above water.

If you are looking for the most inclusive and immersive experience in Maui, make sure to book your whale watching tor today!

Where to Book Your Maui Whale Watching Tour

There are many ways to book your Maui whale watching tour this winter. If you are staying at one of the great resorts along the West and South coasts— you may be able to talk with your concierge who has recommendations and potentially partners with one of the many great tour companies.

If you are staying in an Air BnB or establishment that may not have one of these connections you can always quickly search “Maui Whale Watching Tour” or “Best Whale Watching Tour on Maui” and find some amazing options.

Many tour companies have online booking features that make the reservations and payment easy; all you have to do is read through the guidelines and show up! But, you better act fast!

Whale watching is the most popular thing to do for tourists visiting Maui from December to March, so make sure that you book ASAP to reserve a spot for this once in a lifetime event.

Are you heading to Maui for whale watching but don’t know which of the many tours to choose from? Well, fret not because it isn’t as overwhelming as it may seem. Here is how to choose the best Maui whale watching tour for you and your loved ones, which will hopefully make it one of the most memorable and out-of-this-world experiences you will have.


Cost is always an important factor when going on tours. It is important to ensure your tour is not too costly, neither is it too cheap. It can be weighed out alongside other factors like your choice of boats etc. You never know, what if you miss the sighting of a whale when queuing up for food or enjoying performances? That would not be ideal.

It is also good to take recommendations from locals, they have insight and know the area, the wildlife and operators. You can always compare prices online and refer to reviews by visitors. When reading reviews look for consistency, if there are lots of great reviews, the not-so-great ones may have been an anomaly.

Company Image

Definitely beware of companies that promise you the ‘closest’ view of the whale possible. Besides it being a sign that they are breaching safety guidelines and laws, it is just too good to be true. On top of that, many unreputable companies operate tours in a more corporate style, with larger groups or not locally owned. Choose a tour by a reputable company that sees you as a person not just a number. Companies where the team loves what they do will give you the best whale watching experience. When reading reviews, look at what it says about the crew. Evaluating a company's image can help you book a more positive experience.

Tour Focus

Many companies run seasonal whale watches, on top of other activities such as snorkeling or diving.  Ensure that the tour you choose focuses on whale watching, whereby the activities are just an add-on, or to be conducted after you have seen the majestic creatures, and not solely a glimpse before taking off into the horizon. Read up on their websites and reviews to know exactly what the tour includes, how the time is designated for activities and where the tour will be hosted.

Whale Sighting Guarantee

Sometimes, nature does its own thing and  you may be unable to spot a whale on your tour. Don’t worry, most companies will book you on another tour for free (sometimes within a specific time frame such as a year or that season) if you do not get to see the whales. Some companies will even refund your trip if there are no whale sightings. This is most likely to happen at the very beginning or end of whale season when there are fewer whales on Maui. But do note, it only applies to certain companies, so do your research to see which tours provide this guarantee.

Choose the Best Tour

Maui is considerably one of the best places to whale watch. While you choose a tour, always remember to prioritize visitor satisfaction. Don’t opt for cheap tours just to save on cost. Ensure your safety is top-notch as well. Only this way can you enjoy whale watching without worry. Book your tour today and enjoy the best whale watching experience of your life!

Now that you know how to choose the best whale-watching tours, here are some of the best whale-watching tours in Maui for you to book today!

Hawaii Ocean Rafting

Rafts are the best way to whale watch for two reasons. The first is the low-to-water style of a vessel. Instead of looking over a railing down at the whale, you are at eye-level with the whale. The opportunities to be up close and personal will surely make you admire the beauty of humpback whales. Don’t forget to bring a waterproof camera because you are likely going to get splashed with ocean spray!

The second reason rafts are so popular is the small group size. Each accommodates less than 16 guests which makes it a more intimate and casual setting. Getting to know the people you are rafting with as well as the local crew will make the experience so much more memorable.

Whale Watch and Snorkel

This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience because you get to whale watch and snorkel. Guaranteed a sighting of a whale, you will be with a small group of about 16 people. You will be onboarding a rafting vessel, which has a hydrophone so you can listen to whales. You also get to listen to talks by onboard marine naturalists. Since it is closer to the water, you get the best view possible. Snorkel instruction is included and you’ll be snorkeling along the shallow reef of Lanai or Maui with tropical fish and turtles.

Many people rate a tour like this highly. Tours are available daily from December to April but remember, if your child is below three years of age, they aren’t permitted.

Whale Watch Sail

Set sail to spot the majestic humpback whales off the coast of Maui. Being able to hold up to 50 passengers, it is also equipped with hydrophones for you to hear the whales. Having the tour led by onboard marine naturalists, you will gain new knowledge about whales that you never knew. People recommend the tour mainly because of how good the tour guides are, and of course, being able to see many whales.

Trilogy – Kaanapali Whale Watch

For this tour, you will be aboard a luxury catamaran and set sail from Kaanapali Beach. Learning about whales from the naturalist onboard, you can also enjoy snacks. Tours are available on most days from December to April. If you want to enhance the entire Maui experience, you can also opt for other activities snorkeling, dinner sails as well as scuba cruises.

Making Maui Memorable

Maui is considerably one of the best places to whale watch. It will be something you remember for a lifetime, alongside the beautiful ocean view you have. At sunset, everything is so much more magical and breathtaking. If you are worried about safety, don’t be. This is all thanks to the friendly crew you will be with throughout the tour making it really safe. So, book your tour today and make Maui the most memorable trip you’ve been on!