Free Maui whale watching beaches and cliffs provide an easy and inexpensive way to observe humpback whales that winter around Maui from December to May.
If you have some binoculars around the house, take them with you to Maui. After you spot humpback whales, it can be fun to zoom in on them with binoculars. Cameras and video cameras with zoom lens can also work.
Free Maui Whale Watching Beaches & Areas
Humpback whales winter in the shallow waters on the calm leeward side of Maui where the island blocks some of the high trade winds - that is the blue area on my map.
As you drive along the coastal highway, any area with a view of the ocean may have whales close by - there are many lookout areas.
A good spot for whale watching is Pohaku Beach Park (also known as S-Turns), located about 15 minutes north of Lahaina at Kahana.
McGregor Point Lookout
You can also take advantage of an elevated location such as McGregor Point Lookout & Lighthouse (also called Papawai Point).
During humpback watching season, the Pacific Whale Foundation's Ocean Outreach Van is often at this scenic lookout area with interesting displays and free information about whales.
Sometimes they even have a Marine Research Naturalist on hand (with binoculars for you to borrow) to help you spot whales.
In the picture, that's a whale baleen (not a skinny surfboard).
To get to McGregor Point, drive south from Lahaina on the Honoapiilani Highway (Highway 30) to mile markers 7 and 8 - just west of Maalaea). There is parking for about fifteen cars, and a spot is usually available. When you drive from the airport to Lahaina or Kaanapali you pass right by this lookout point.
Free Maui Whale Watching - Ocean View Restaurants
Lots of Maui restaurants have ocean view seating. Try to get a table with an ocean view, even if you have to wait a little longer. Then be on the lookout for whales.
We often eat breakfast at Betty's Beach Cafe in Lahaina, and have spotted humpback whales (and once a small calf) just while having our morning coffee there.
How to Locate Whales around Maui
• Scan the horizon, looking for a blow (vapor spout above the ocean surface)and large splashes caused by activities such as breaching or tail slapping.
Heavy ocean whitecaps on windy days make it more difficult to locate humpback whales.
• Another indication of nearby whales is a boat that is sitting still for no apparent reason - there's likely to be a humpback nearby.
• Whales dive for an average of 7-15 minutes - if you see a whale dive, keep watching the area for when the whale surfaces again.
• A simple technique that some people use to locate whales from land - just look for a group of cars stopped along the highway. This occurs frequently along the coastline highway when we travel south of Lahaina. (If you do this, please move safely to the side of the road!)
The video below includes a pod of whales swimming upside down and slapping the ocean surface with their pectoral fins. I took this video at the cliffs around mile marker 16 on Highway 30 at the north end of Maui. This area is sometimes described as the Olivine Pools.
Cick on the PLAY button in the image below to view the video.