October is the time of year on Maui when thoughts turn to ghosts, goblins and Halloween-and the return of the humpback whales.
First the big news-the whales. The humpbacks are back in Maui County waters, reports the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF), which has documented two whale sightings since the beginning of October. The whales were observed on Oct. 6 and 12.
"While it may feel early, nine of the 13 first reported Maui sightings since 1988 took place in October," said PWF President Greg Kaufman. "The others occurred in late September or early November."
Welcome aboard for a “spooktacular” trip to Lahaina for Halloween. Pacific Whale Foundation will offer the Halloween Cocktail Cruise featuring appetizers, drinks, dessert and coffee. The Halloween Express Cruise, which operates like a “ferry,” offers a choice of schedules and the option of purchasing soft drinks and snacks onboard.
This year's first Maui County sighting on Thursday, Oct. 6, involved a pair of whales sighted about two miles off the eastern coast of Lana'i. Capt. Bryson Oliveira of PWF's Ocean Discovery observed an adult whale with a smaller whale swimming towards Ma'alaea.
Whales were also sighted on Wednesday, Oct. 12, by Capt. Carlos Cardena of PWF's Ocean Quest. The crew and passengers observed an active sub-adult (a whale that hasn't reached sexual maturity) near Kamaiki Point on Lana'i.
PWF will begin offering regular Whale Search cruises in early November, but for those who want to get out on the ocean and see these early bird whales in a "spook-takular" way, the nonprofit is offering cruises to Lahaina's Halloween festivities.
According to PWF, these cruises offer the best way to get to Lahaina's celebration. You depart from convenient Ma'alaea Harbor, where there's abundant free parking, and cruise straight to Lahaina Harbor, near the epicenter of the Front Street merriment.
"Pacific Whale Foundation offers two Halloween options," said PWF Eco-Adventures COO Cynthia Mayer. "The Halloween Cocktail Cruise features appetizers, drinks, dessert and coffee. The Halloween Express Cruise operates like a "ferry" with a choice of schedules and the option of purchasing soft drinks and snacks onboard."
PWF's Halloween Cocktail Cruise departs at 6 and 6:30 p.m. and includes delicious hot and cold appetizers plus refreshments (soda, juices, beer, wine, Mai Tais and tropical mixed drinks). Adults with valid I.D. can enjoy up to three cocktails.
Guests disembark at Lahaina to enjoy two hours of Halloween fun. During the starlit return trip to Ma'alaea, the staff serves Coconut Brownies, Caramel Apple Bread and coffee. The overall trip time, including Lahaina stopover, is about 4.5 hours.
Ticket prices for the Halloween Cocktail Cruise are roundtrip: $79.95 for adults and $59.95 for children 12 and under.
PWF also offers a Halloween Express cruise. You custom-create your travel schedule, choosing from Ma'alaea departures at 5:30 and 6:15 p.m. and return trips from Lahaina at 9:30 or 11 p.m.
The one-way ticket price is $34.95 for adults and $29.95 for children ages 12 and under. (For a roundtrip, purchase two tickets.) Soft drinks and snacks cost about $1 to $2 each.
Book at www.pacificwhale.org and save 10 percent. PWF Members save 20 percent. Kama'aina save 20 percent on phone reservations. Call (808) 249-8811, ext. 1.
To learn about Hawai'i's whales, visit www.pacificwhale.org to download a free whalewatch guide.