Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Maui

Since my first trip to Hawaii in 2013, one activity that has been at the top of my “to try” list is stand up paddle boarding (SUP). I chickened out when I was there in 2013 and again in 2015 but finally got up the nerve to try it on this trip. I have seen so many people during my trips out on their boards, gliding along, making it look so easy. I knew better. I figured it was going to be hard. And I was right. It was actually really hard. I needed an instructor to hold my board in order to stand and even then, I resembled baby Bambi trying to stand for the first time, with wobbly legs and a lot of falling. So much falling in fact that I don’t have a photo of me standing while we were out there but I promise, and Deb as my witness can confirm, that I did manage to stand up a couple of times for a few moments. After it was over, I realized that I had fun and really enjoyed the experience and I am so glad I tried it. We even saw a huge turtle while we were out there. I can’t wait to go again, hopefully soon.

We went out on the water with Paddle On! Maui. The company is owned by Peg and her tours start in Wailea near the Fairmont Hotel. Peg was wonderful to us. We were supposed to go out on our first morning in Hawaii but Peg was kind enough to call us and tell us it wouldn’t be enjoyable because it was so rough and windy. We finally made it out a few days later. It was just the two of us and Peg, which was great for beginners like us. I appreciated Peg’s undivided attention and also her concern for our safety and comfort. She had many good suggestions for places to go and things to see for our remaining time in Maui. She easily picked up on my love for Hawaii and made the comment that I’m “totally moving” there soon. Ha! Maybe! I hope? I wish? Although this was not a cheap activity (~$150pp for 3 hours), I highly recommend Paddle On! Maui if you go stand up paddle boarding while in Maui. The amazing service and small group atmosphere make it worth the price.

Of course we found some time for the beach while we were in Maui as well. My favorite beach was Big Beach. As the names implies, it’s a big beach, which was great because it could accommodate many people while still giving people the space to spread out and relax. It was sunny the first day we were there, overcast the second but I thoroughly enjoyed our time there both times. I did a bit of snorkeling the first day (I have my own gear so it was impromptu and on my own) and there were some fun fish and coral to see under the water, which was a pleasant surprise.

I could get used to this.

The sand was so fine. I loved running my hands and feet through it.

Maui ?

And then it was gone…

I stared at the view below for hours and it was time well spent. Take me back!

Protection from the sun is key for me. The long sleeved rash guard you see me wearing in so many of my photos is one of my most valuable purchases when it comes to beach vacations. I wear it all the time because it provides such great coverage from the sun without me having to use lots of sunscreen. I got this one at Land’s End but you can find them many places. I got my sun hat at a farmer’s market in L.A. I like that it has a wire around the rim so I can manipulate it as I need to.

We were greeted with really strong shore breaks on our second day at Big Beach. I did venture into the water at one point and the waves even made me nervous, which was telling because I’m usually very comfortable wading into the ocean. There were so many kids trying to boogie board and body surf on these waves, even though the lifeguards kept telling them to stop because the waves were too dangerous and many necks get broken when kids try to do that on these types of waves. But apparently most people were not concerned because the kids kept doing it.

The other side of Molokini

One last photo that has nothing to do with stand up paddle boarding or the ocean but makes me laugh every time I see it in my photo album… we passed through this intersection several times during our stay in Maui and every time, we would comment at the writing on the highway. Is it telling us we can go straight? ? How many times is it really necessary to mention that the two left lanes are turn only? Judging by the road below, about 20 times per lane.

Whale Watching in Maui

One of the activities I have enjoyed the most during my visits to Hawaii is whale watching in Maui. Being out on a boat while looking for whales in the distance is the perfect way to spend a morning in my opinion. If you are going to Maui, you should make sure whale watching is on your list.

Here are the things you should know before you go.

The Humpback Whale

When I say whales here, I mean humpback whales. The humpback whale is a species of baleen whale. The adults range in length from 39-52 feet and weigh about 79,000 pounds (Wow! I didn’t realize they were SO big before writing this post).

The humpback whale has a distinctive body shape, with long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. Their lifespan is estimated to be between 45-50 years. The humpback whale completes the longest annual migration of any mammal.

Males produce a complex song lasting 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time. Its purpose is not clear, though it may have a role in mating.

The Best Time to See Whales in Maui

Humpback whales visit Hawaiian waters each year from November May. The peak season is from January to March.

Which Hawaiian Island is Best for Whale Watching?

While you are likely to see whales off many of the Hawaiian islands during whale season, Maui is one of the top whale watching spots for boat-based viewing in the world.

Pacific Whale Foundation

We chose to go on a whale watching tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation (referred to as Pac Whale by the locals) from Maalaea Harbor, which was next door to our condo. Talk about convenient!

The Pacific Whale Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1980 to save whales from extinction. According to their website, their mission is to “protect the oceans through science and advocacy.” They do research in Hawaii, Australia and Ecuador.  When possible, I prefer to take tours with organizations that are working to improve the environment and the species that call it home. Therefore, Pacific Whale Foundation was the perfect choice for us!

Whale Watching in Maui

We started spotting whales within 10-15 minutes of departing from Maalaea Harbor and probably saw 15-20 whales in total during the two hours we were out on the water. Most of the whales we saw included a mama and a baby since the whales come to the warm waters of Hawaii in the winter to give birth and raise their babies until they are grown enough to make the trek back to Alaska during for the summer.

The whales do not eat while they are in Hawaii because there is no food in the area. They eat nonstop during the summer months in Alaska and use that as fuel for the winters in Hawaii. We did see a large breach or two but I did not catch any of them with my camera. I am okay with that since I was there to experience the moment, not take photos.

Whale Watching in Maui
Every humpback whale has a unique pattern on its tail fin, which helps researchers identify them.

The land mass in the distance of this photo is Molokini. Molokini is a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater between Maui and Kaho’olawe. Snorkeling and scuba diving are very popular at Molokini.
Whale Watching in Maui
My favorite moment of the tour, and possibly my favorite moment of the whole trip to Maui, happened about halfway into this tour. A mama and baby whale swam directly under our boat and came to the surface about 10 feet from where I was standing on the boat. It was AMAZING! I will not forget that moment anytime soon. Everyone on the boat was so excited.
A couple of Bottlenose dolphins decided to join our tour too!

So many wind towers on the island of Maui.

My Final Thoughts on Whale Watching in Maui

I really liked this tour. I think it was the cheapest organized tour we did in Maui too. It was ~$45 per person, which is reasonable for Maui.

The only odd thing about the tour was that they required everyone boarding to have their photo taken. Their reason for this was to help them count the number of people on board. They then had employees count the number of people on board again after we departed from Maalaea Harbor. I have never seen this before and am not sure why they were so particular about the photo. I tried to talk my way out of having to have my photo taken to no avail. I wonder if they have funding or grants tied to the number of people they take on tours?

Other than this, I only have great things to say about whale watching in Maui and the Pacific Whale Foundation and its employees. I highly recommend them if you plan to join a whale watching tour while in Hawaii.

Interested in reading more? Check out the things you should know before traveling the Road to Hana here.

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Whale Watching in Maui