5 events that celebrate humpback whales on Maui

Posted by Staff Writer on Monday, December 16th, 2019 at 10:44am

All ocean users are barred from approaching humpback whales within 100 yards...but sometimes they come to you! This behaviour is known as “whale mugging” and the boat captain is required to stay put until the whale decides to swim away.

For decades, Maui residents have come together to celebrate the island’s most beloved wintertime visitors—humpback whales.

In 2020, the Pacific Whale Foundation will hold its 40th annual Maui Whale Festival, a series of events designed to inspire environmental stewardship and honor the great giants that migrate to the islands each winter. Held since 1980, the festival offers a range of events for residents and visitors alike. But isn’t the only event dedicated to the whales. Here are a few ways you can get involved in the festivities: 

Run & Walk for the Whales

Saturday, February 1 | Begins at 7 a.m. 

Māʻalaea Harbor Shops

300 Māʻalaea Rd., Māʻalaea


Whether you’re a walker or runner, all abilities are welcome at the Pacific Whale Foundation’s for the Run & Walk for the Whales. It’s one of the festival’s most popular events, with 1-mile, 5K, 10K or 10-mile races.

Parade of Whales and World Whale Day

Saturday, February 8 | Begins at 9 a.m. 

South Kihei Road and Kalama Park


Starting at 9 a.m. at Kamaole 1, the Whale Day 2020 Parade marches down South Kihei Road and ends at Kalama Park, where you’ll find live entertainment, food booths, a children’s carnival and environmental displays. It’s also home to the Made-on-Maui Fair, which will be set up until 3 p.m.  

World Whale Film Festival

Friday, February 14 | 7 to 10 p.m. 

Historic Iao Theater, Wailuku


Head to the event to support storytellers who are passionate about environmental stewardship and are tasked with making films with the theme, “Heroic Acts of Conservation.” The event’s mission is to “tell powerful stories that inspire ocean and wildlife conservation around the world.” 

Whale Tales

Friday, February 14 to Monday, February 17

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua


Held in its 14th year, Whale Tales is an annual four-day event that brings together marine scientists and conservationists from around the world to share their knowledge of humpback whales with the public through engaging talks, receptions, photo expeditions and exciting whale watches. All proceeds go to support research.

Great Whale Count

Saturday, January 25; Saturday, February 29; Saturday, March 28

Various locations


Want to help with one of the world’s longest-running citizen scientist projects? The Pacific Whale Foundation needs your help counting and monitoring humpback whales that are visible from a dozen different survey sites along Maui coastlines. The count is held over multiple days, and training and materials are provided.



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