Why Lahaina Is The Best Place For Whale Watching In Hawaii
Every winter, over 10,000 humpback whales migrate from the frigid North Pacific to the summery waters of Hawaii. These whales travel thousands of miles year after year to mate, give birth, and play in the islands. And just like so many human visitors, the humpbacks’ favorite place in Hawaii is Maui— particularly Lahaina.
From December to April, Lahaina’s waters are like whale soup— there are that many! But have you ever wondered what makes Lahaina a whale-watching haven? Here are five reasons why Lahaina is the best place for whale watching in Hawaii.
1. Whales Love Maui Nui Basin
Over a million years ago, Maui was part of one massive island: Maui Nui. This 5,600 square mile behemoth comprised Maui, Kahoʻolawe, Lanai, and Molokai. As sea levels rose and the island’s volcanoes aged, eroded, and collapsed, Maui Nui’s saddles slowly flooded to form four separate islands.
This left shallow ocean channels between the islands, known today as the Maui Nui Basin. The shallowest channel in the Maui Nui Basin is the Auau Channel, between Lahaina and Lanai.
The deepest part of the Auau Channel is only 252 feet (77 meters)! For a 50-foot whale, the Auau Channel is equivalent to a six-foot person swimming at Molokini. It’s no wonder why whales feel so comfortable here!
2. Lahaina Has Calm Waters
If you’ve ever been on a Lahaina whale watch, you’ve probably admired the stunning views of the West Maui Mountains— in between watching whales, of course.
But these mountains are more than just a gorgeous backdrop. The towering peaks of the West Maui Mountains act as barriers to the prevailing trade winds, keeping the waters calm most of the time. Even if the wind is whipping at Maalaea Harbor, Lahaina is usually calmer. This creates an ideal environment for newborn whales. Here, they can effortlessly nurse, play, and learn how to swim, which is why so many mama whales hang out off Lahaina.
Calm conditions are also a bonus for whale watchers. A whale watch is more enjoyable on smooth seas and makes spotting whales easy.
3. Predators Don’t Like Lahaina’s Shallow Waters
In the frigid waters near Alaska— where Hawaii’s humpbacks spend their summers— whales have several sinister predators: orcas, large sharks, and sometimes false killer whales.
On Maui, humpback whales have very few predators. Orcas are rare in Hawaii, and false killer whales tend to stay in deep offshore waters. Tiger sharks will occasionally feed on newborn calves and sick adult whales— but could you imagine being a 10-foot shark trying to mess with a 50-foot whale?! That’s why, for the most part, the shallow waters off Lahaina are an Eden for humpbacks.
4. There Are Plenty Of Options For Lahaina Whale Watches
Lahaina Harbor is a hub for whale watch tours. You can effortlessly find the perfect whale watch to suit your needs, whether you’re looking for a mellow excursion with your grandparents or a fun adventure with the kids.
Our exciting Lahaina whale watch adventure departs from Lahaina Harbor multiple times daily throughout whale season. Our tours run two hours, leaving you plenty of time to see Maui’s friendly humpbacks and explore Lahaina’s various shops and restaurants.
5. Maui Adventure Cruises Is Based In Lahaina!
Our Whale Watching Adventure is the best Lahaina whale watch! You’ll never go back to the crowded big boats after a whale watch with us.
You’ll get mind-blowing ocean-level views from our 50-foot raft, which is especially awe-inspiring when curious humpbacks approach the boat to say hello. Plus, all of our tours run well below capacity, which means every seat is the best seat in the house.
But there’s more to our tours than just watching for whales. You’ll learn about whale behavior in real-time from our onboard naturalist and even listen to whales singing underwater via hydrophone. See for yourself why we’re the best Lahaina whale watch; book a tour today! We can’t wait to have you onboard!