Humpback whales can be seen breaching and splashing off Maui's shores from November through May, but experienced whale watchers agree that the month of February brings the peak of the action. It's the time when the largest numbers of whales are found in Maui's clear, warm near-shore waters, mating, giving birth and nurturing their newborn calves.
The Maui Whale Festival is a six-month series of events honoring these humpback whales and the next generation that they are bringing forth during their winter in Maui. The festival dates parallel those of "whale season" and run from November through May. And just like "whale season," the Maui Whale Festival "peaks" in February, with its most popular signature events occupying every weekend of the month, plus a bevy of additional events featured on all the days in between.
"It's a magical time of year, when you can hear whales singing when you snorkel or dive in the ocean, and you can see whales in almost every direction," said Greg Kaufman, president and founder of Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF), the Maui nonprofit that hosts the Maui Whale Festival. "There's so much to celebrate, especially the fact that this population of whales is making a very successful comeback from the brink of extinction. The Maui Whale Festival offers many ways to participate in learning about and celebrating the presence of these remarkable animals."
In the midst of all the Maui Whale Festival fun, don’t forget to get out to see the whales firsthand on a whale watch with Pacific Whale Foundation, which offers more than 15 cruises daily on the foundation’s eight vessels from Ma‘alaea and Lahaina Harbors. For reservations, visit www.pacificwhale.org or call PWF at (808) 249-8811, ext. 1.
Photo: Pacific Whale Foundation
The biggest event of the Maui Whale Festival is World Whale Day, a free, outdoor celebration at ocean-side Kalama Park in Kihei. World Whale Day takes place on Saturday, Feb. 18, with free admission and an enthusiastic welcome to all who wish to attend. (See pages 9-15 for event details.)
Last year's event attracted an estimated 17,000 attendees; with longer hours this year, even more are expected to join the fun. World Whale Day begins with Maui's Parade of Whales along South Kihei Road from 9 to 10 a.m.
The live entertainment begins at Kalama Park at 10 a.m. and continues until 8 p.m. with a star-studded lineup that includes some of Hawai'i's most popular performers.
World Whale Day also includes a mega-gathering of local artisans, who display and sell their wares at a huge "Made on Maui" fair.
Bring your appetite, because World Whale Day offers delicious fare by many local restaurants and food purveyors.
The younger set will love the Keiki Carnival, complete with ocean-themed carnival games by PWF's inventive Education Department, bouncy rides, facepainting, cotton candy and shave ice. There are also displays about whales, and booths by local groups and government agencies working to protect Maui's environment.
Maui Whale Festival also includes special whale watch cruises, a free photography exhibition known as "Tribute to the Whales," and daily "Whale Information Stations" along the "Trail of the Whale," where you can learn about whales from knowledgeable PWF naturalists.
To learn all about the Maui Whale Festival, visit www.mauiwhalefestival.org. In the midst of all the fun, don't forget to get out to see the whales firsthand on a whale watch cruise with PWF. There are more than 15 whale watch cruises offered daily on the foundation's eight vessels from Ma'alaea and Lahaina Harbors.
For reservations, visit www.pacificwhale.org or call PWF at (808) 249-8811, ext. 1.
Submit event press releases to editor@maui weekly.com. Type "blue column" in the subject line.