Humpback Whales on Maui, Hawaii

Humpback Whale on Maui

Did you know that the female whales are larger than males? Did you know that an average whale heart weighs approximately 430 pounds or as much as 3 average human beings? Did you know that whales have hair? Did you know that whale songs travel great distances and can be heard across the world’s oceans? And can continue for hours on end? Did you know whale songs are sung exclusively by males? Did you know that the spray from the blowhole can reach up to 15 feet high? Did you know that whales can grow up to 60 years old?

Humpback Whale

Whales are mysterious and it is not known why they breach or what their songs and sounds communicate. The name of the Humpback describes the motion it makes when it prepares to dive and arches it’s back. Humpback whales can be found in Maui during the winter. Whale season is from December through April or even May. They migrate to Maui to pass on their knowledge to the young and engage in nursing activities, calving and mating. Mothers nurse calves for almost a year. Calves do not stop growing until they are ten years old.

Humpback Whales on Maui Hawaii

We were lucky to take in a whale watch with friends Dr. Rob Yapp and his wife Luann on their 42-foot sail boat off of Lahaina Harbor. Both are accomplished sailors and have crossed the Pacific multiple times. We saw breaching, pectoral fin slapping, spy hopping, tail slapping, and head lunging. We were within 150 yards of the whales (well outside of the 100 yard regulation) and we could still easily see many of these behaviors clearly. The sail that day was quite a treat.

Humpback Whale Behaviors

There are many, but here are a few typical humpback whale behaviors seen in Hawaii.

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Adults surface every 7-15 minutes while calves must rise every 3-5 minutes to breathe. Adults can remain underwater for up to 45 minutes, but usually last only up to 15 minutes. They can dive to a depth of 500-700 feet.


A Full Breach occurs when whales thrusts themselves out of water from the head all the way to tail in an acrobatic display, then makes a large splash on the surface.

Tail Slap-Lobtailing

The whale lifts its tail out of the water into the air, swings it around then slaps it on the water’s surface.

Tail Throw-Peduncle Slap

The peduncle is the part that connects to the tail. The whale throws its tail out of the water and slaps the peduncle on the surface of the water.

Pectoral Fin Slapping-Flippering

The Humpback slaps the waters surface with one or both fins simultaneously.

Head Rise or Spy Hop

The whale pokes it head out of water for up to 30 seconds to take a look around.

 Fluke Up Dive-A type of dive

The markings on the underside of the flukes (tails) are unique to each individual whale, like a fingerprint. The tail of the whale appears out of the water in an upward arch and slowly rolls underwater in conjunction with a dive.

Head Lunge-Head Slapping

The whales head lunges forward, raised above the water.

Humpback Whale on South Maui

The meaning of Humpback whale behaviors is unknown but the voices and songs remain wonderously mysterious. Humbpack whales do not have vocal chords and no air is emitted from the body while they are singing. It is thought that the sound is produced by moving air through valves and sacks within their respiratory system similar to air escaping from a balloon.

Be sure to listen to the beautiful songs while you are on Maui. Grab a snorkel, put your ears under the water and listen to one of the greatest concerts of the animal kingdom.

Humpback Whale on Maui Sunset

Humpback Whales

  • Scientific Name-Megaptera Novaeanglieae
  • Hawaiian Name-Kohola
  • Kingdom- Animalia
  • Phylym-Chordata (vertebrates)
  • Group-Mammalia
  • Order-Cetacea (whales and dolphins)
  • Sub-order-Mysticeti (baleen whales)
  • Family-Balaenopteridae
  • Genus-Megaptera (means “huge-wings” referring to it’s flippers)
  • Species-Novaeangliae
  • Type of Whale-Baleen
  • Weight-40-45 Tons
  • Length-45 feet
  • Life Span 40-60 years
  • Gestation-10-12 months

We would like to thank Mark and Shayla Middleton of  Window To Paradise  for giving us the permission to use their amazing photos  of the Humpback Whales. I also would like to thank Buzza Duck for allowing us to share a beautiful collage of the recent photos he took of Humpback Whales.

As we always say, “we are lucky to live on Maui”.  This place is a paradise on earth. If you have any questions about moving to Maui, about buying or selling properties here, or if you would like to receive Maui development updates, please contact me, Jennifer Powell, (RB) at

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