Hawaii Travel: Winter whale watching adventures in Maui
Jan 09, 2023
East Bay Times
One of the greatest nature shows on Earth comes to Maui each winter. Thousands of giant humpback whales –called kohola in native Hawaiian — congregate in the shallow, warm water channels between Maui, Molokai, Kaho’lawe and Lanai after migrating thousands of miles from food-rich waters off Alaska and other regions of the north Pacific. Here in Hawaii, they breed, give birth and nurse calves in an oceanic ritual that’s as old as time.
At the height of the season, January through March, there are so many whales in Maui’s waters, the locals wryly call it “whale soup” — and it’s easy to take it all in.
Hawaiians consider humpbacks as kama’aina or native-born. They are revered in Polynesian culture and found in ancient petroglyphs and native Hawaiian creation stories. In Hawaiian culture, kohola signify strength, power and unity, and remind us of the spiritual connection between humans and the natural world. They are magical to watch as they socialize, sing and play just offshore.
It was early December — generally considered the start of Maui’s “whale season” — and I was bobbing about in the gentle surf of Polo Beach, which fronts Wailea’s Fairmont Kea Lani resort, where I had sequestered for a few days in an ocean-facing Kilohana suite.