Note: Nonessential travel to West Maui – including Lahaina, Napili, Ka’anapali and Kapalua – is discouraged at this time due to wildfire damage sustained in August 2023. Though whale watching season is in winter and early spring, contact your chosen tour company to see if they will be offering tours this year. If you do choose to travel, be mindful as the community rebuilds. For more information and updates on Maui, visit the Hawaii Tourism Authority website.
With humpback whales making their annual migration from Alaska back to Hawaii at the beginning of each year (roughly December to April), it’s the perfect time to plan a trip to Maui to witness the beauty of these gigantic sea creatures. Whether you opt for a large boat, a small raft or something in between, you’ll see some incredible scenery as well as wildlife from a safe and respectful distance. U.S. News consulted both expert input and traveler opinion to select the following whale watching excursions.
Ultimate Whalewatch & Snorkel – Maui Whale Watching
Price: Adults from $77; kids from $49
Duration: 2 hours
This two-hour small-group tour with 26 people or less guarantees you will see a whale (or you get to go again for free) and includes talks by the onboard marine naturalist. You’ll travel on a rafting vessel, which has a hydrophone so you can listen to the whales. This type of vessel also offers better views than a larger boat since it sits closer to the water. Tour-takers say this is one of the best whale watching tours they’ve taken and describe it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience filled with many whale sightings.
Tours are available at multiple times daily from December through April and depart from Lahaina. Tickets start at $77 for adults and $49 for children ages 4 to 12. Children younger than 4 are not permitted. Ultimate Whalewatch & Snorkel also offers snorkeling tours and private charters.
PacWhale Eco-Adventures – Whalewatch
Price: Adults from $88; kids from $50
Duration: 2 hours
Set sail on a catamaran to spot humpback whales off the coast of Maui. This vessel is equipped with a hydrophone – a device that allows passengers to eavesdrop on a whale’s conversation. Marine naturalists lead the tours and impart knowledge about the whales. If you don’t see a whale during your voyage, you can take another tour for free. Participants recommend the tour, praising the knowledge of the crew, and say you’ll spot many whales. They advise getting a seat on the bow for better views.
The two-hour tour departs from Maalaea Harbor several times daily from November to mid-April; exact times depend on the month. Tickets start at $88 for adults and $50 for children ages 5 to 12; kids 4 and younger sail for free. The company also has snorkeling, dolphin watching and sunset dinner cruises, among other options.
Trilogy – Kaanapali Whale Watch
Price: Adults from $85; kids from $50
Duration: 2 hours
Leaving from Kaanapali Beach, this two-hour tour aboard a luxury catamaran features a whale naturalist who shares information about humpback whales, as well as an in-water hydrophone to listen to the whale songs. Participants are also treated to a light meal with a cold drink. Reviewers say that you’ll see lots of wildlife and whales, and have plenty to eat; many also praise the informative and helpful crew.
Tickets cost approximately $85 for adults, $70 for teenagers ages 13 to 17 and $50 for children ages 3 to 12; the excursion is free for kids younger than 3. Tours run from mid-December to mid-April on most days and depart at 8 and 10:30 a.m. as well as 1 p.m. The company offers a whale watch tour from Maalaea and a variety of other tours, including outings that explore Lanai and Molokini.
Blue Water Rafting – Guaranteed Whale Watch
Price: Adults from $75; kids from $65
Duration: 1.5 hours
This seasonal 1 1/2-hour tour, available from mid-December to mid-March, departs from Kihei. The tour uses an inflatable boat that carries up to 24 passengers and brings you close to the whales – sometimes within 100 yards. Additionally, if you tour from January to mid-March, the company guarantees you’ll see whales or you can take another tour for free. Travelers love the intimate experience of this smaller boat, which makes it easy to observe the whales, and say that the captain and crew are friendly and educated.
The tour is available daily at 8 and 10 a.m. and noon. Tickets start at $75 for adults and $65 for children. Blue Water Rafting also offers snorkeling tours of Molokini and the Kanaio Coast.
Hawaii Ocean Rafting – Maui Whale Watch
Price: Adults from $74; kids from $67
Duration: 2 hours
While aboard Hawaii Ocean Rafting’s roughly 30-foot vessel, tourgoers enjoy eye-level views of whales and can listen to their songs via an underwater hydrophone. Small-group tours last around two hours, and the rafts carry no more than 16 passengers. Reviewers describe the crew as hospitable and always respectful of the whales.
Tours depart from Lahaina multiple times daily from mid-December to mid-April. Tickets start at $74 for adults and $67 for children ages 3 to 12. Children 2 and younger are not permitted. Hawaii Ocean Rafting also offers private whale watching excursions.
Sail Maui – Sail “With the Whales” Ma’alaea
Price: Adults from $90; kids from $63
Duration: 2.5 hours
Sail your way around Maui on this 2.5-hour excursion to find majestic whales swimming in the ocean. The trip is sailing only, meaning there are no motor sounds to disrupt the whales. Each cruise, which welcomes up to 25 tourgoers, also includes a light lunch and beverages in its fee.
Reviewers highly recommend this cruise, noting that you’ll see lots of whales (some even saw a calf!) and enjoy the food, drinks and service. Tours depart at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from mid-December through March. Tickets cost $90 for adults and $63 for children ages 3 to 12; kids 2 and younger sail for free. Keep in mind you can only book this cruise during its sail dates. Sail Maui also offers snorkeling tours as well as private charters.