Hawaii Whale Watching: Things You Need to Know

Sponsored by Princess Cruises

Daydreaming about your upcoming Hawaiian cruise, probably conjures images of nightly luaus, tropical drinks as you watch the waves of the Pacific Ocean roll in, and bubbling volcanoes. From across the globe, we flock to Hawaii to experience its raw beauty and welcoming people, but there’s other visitors that will be sharing the ocean with you on your adventure: the whales. The warm shallow waters that surround the Hawaiian Islands make it the perfect place for whales to call home. While excursions are a must, one of the most exciting moments on a Princess cruise around the Hawaiian Islands is spotting them from the ship! You’ll often see water spouts in the distance and then a rush as everyone gathers for another glimpse!

If you want to experience these gentle giants for yourself on your next cruise to Hawaii, here’s a few things you need to know:

When to Go?

While there are a variety of whale species that can be seen off the coast of Hawaii, some of the most magnificent to view are the humpback whales. The humpback migrates back to Hawaii each year as they trek through the Pacific Ocean. Many of the female whales who travel to Hawaii will give birth during their time around the islands. The humpback whale season lasts from November through May, but the best time to view whales is from January to March, though the weather can impact the overall success of your excursion. The ideal conditions for whale watching are warm days with calm winds and low waves. If the sea is particularly rough or the winds are high, whale sightings may be fewer and farther between.

Where to See the Whales?

There are whale watching tours available at most of the harbors in the Hawaiian Islands, however, there are some islands that offer better viewing opportunities than others. In general, Maui is regarded as the premier island for whale watching. The Auau Channel, located on the west side of Maui and between Molokai and Lanai, is a shallow haven for the humpback whales. If Maui is a scheduled stop on your Hawaiian cruise, then save your whale watching excursion for this port. It will offer you the best viewing opportunities, giving you the greatest chance of spotting a giant humpback up close.

Gear and Equipment Needed?

As you’re packing a day bag for your whale watching excursion, remember you’ll be exposed to the elements for most of the day, which means a few things will keep you comfortable:

  • sunscreen and sunglasses
  • a hat, but make sure it can be secured and won’t blow away in the wind
  • a light jacket on hand in case it gets chilly
  • a camera for capturing those epic moments {water proof is nice but no usually necessary}
  • binoculars to get an up-close look at whales that are further from the boat.

Touch base with the tour company prior to your arrival and verify that water and snacks can be brought on board the boat. Water is particularly important when you’re spending your day on the whale watching tour.

Important Facts to Note

Whales are a protected species, and the locals regard them with great respect in Hawaii, which is one reason whale watching boats cannot get closer than 100 yards to the whales. This regulation has been put in place for the protection of the whales as well as those who are hoping to spot them. Always stay a safe distance from these wonderful sea creatures. There’s really nothing quite as breathtaking as seeing a massive humpback breech the ocean waters right before your very eyes. You’re glimpsing one of nature’s most elusive moments and best kept secrets — and it’s a moment you’ll never forget. Whether you spend hours on the deck of your ship watching them play in the surf, or you head out on a boat for a whale watching tour, you’re sure to captivated by these amazing creatures.

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