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The humpbacks are back! Our guide for Hawaii whale watching season

The humpback whales are back!

The Maui News last week reported the first sighting of a pod of North Pacific humpback whales, spotted off the West Maui coast. Since then, even more whales have been spotted offshore around the Islands, marking the start of Hawaii’s annual humpback whale season.

After spending the summer months feeding in the waters of southeastern Alaska, thousands of North Pacific humpback whales make a 3,000-mile journey south to various winter breeding areas to mate, give birth, and nurse. Fortunately, for Hawaii residents and visitors, our islands have traditionally attracted the majority of the seasonal humpback whale population—as many as 10,000 per season.

The whales are arriving a bit early this year—they were expected in early- to mid-November. Peak viewing months are January to March. The last remaining mothers and calves usually leave our Hawaiian waters for Alaska by early May.

Commercial whale watch cruises are popular, and are still the best way to see the whales up close and breaching. But if you take a drive on the Islands’ coastal roads and highways during peak viewing months, you’ll find scenic lookouts full of people—eyes, cameras and binoculars fixed toward the ocean in search of the gargantuan mammals as they relax in Hawaiian waters.
Where are the best places to watch from shore?

• Oahu: The Makapuu Point lookout and lighthouse and Halona Blowhole lookout on Oahu’s south shore offer great vantage points, with wide ocean vistas. Both lookouts are located off Kalanianaole Hwy, and have free parking.

• Maui: The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Learning Center in the south shore resort community of Kihei has an on site viewing scope and personnel available to answer any questions you might have on whales and whale behavior. The center, located at 726 S. Kihei Road, is open Monday to Friday; from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free. Driving to and from Lahaina? There are also several good lookouts for whale spotting along West Maui’s Hwy 30.

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
Maui’s humpback whales
Humpbacks are back! Hawaii’s 2011-12 whale-watching season now under way
First humpback of Hawaii whale watching season spotted off Maui

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