If fishing is your sport, Maui is your island. In these waters you'll find ahi, aku (skipjack tuna), barracuda, bonefish, kawakawa(bonito), mahimahi, Pacific blue marlin, ono, and ulua (jack crevalle). You can fish year-round and you don't need a license. Because boats fill up fast during busy seasons (Christmas, spring break, tournament weeks), consider making reservations before coming to Maui.
Plenty of fishing boats run out of Lahaina and Maalaea harbors. If you charter a private boat, expect to spend in the neighborhood of $700 to $1,000 for a thrilling half-day in the swivel seat. You can share a boat for much less if you don't mind close quarters with a stranger who may get seasick, drunk, or worse.. lucky! Before you sign up, you should know that some boats keep the catch. Most will, however, fillet a nice piece for you to take home. And if you catch a real beauty, you might even be able to have it professionally mounted.
You're expected to bring your own lunch and nonglass beverages. (Shop the night before; it's hard to find snacks at 6 am.) Boats supply coolers, ice, and bait. A 10% to 20% tip is suggested.
Boats and Charters
Finest Kind Inc. A record 1,118-pound blue marlin was reeled in by the crew aboard Finest Kind, a lovely 37-foot Merritt kept so clean you'd never guess the action it's seen. Ask Captain Dave about his pet frigate bird—he's been around these waters long enough to befriend other expert fishers. This family-run company operates four boats and specializes in live bait. Shared charters start at $139 for four hours and up to $199 for a full day. All-day private trips go from $599 to $1,000. Add 7% for tax and harbor fees. Check for any specials before booking., . ..
Hinatea Sportfishing. This company is well established and has an excellent reputation. The active crew aboard the first-class, 41-foot Hatteras has the motto, "No boat rides here—we go to catch fish!" Charters go from $150 to $210 for a shared boat and from $850 to $1,100 for a private boat. A 7% tax will be included. , . .
Kai Palena Sportfishing. Captain Fuzzy Alboro runs a serious and highly recommended operation on the 32-foot Die Hard. Check-in is at 2:45 am, and he takes a maximum of six people per trip. The cost is from $200 for a shared boat to $1,100 for a private charter; add 7% tax. , , . .
Start Me Up Sportfishing. These 42-foot Bertram Sportfisherswill give you one of the most comfortable fishing trips around. With more than 20 years in business, Start Me Up has a fleet of five boats, all relatively new and impeccably maintained, complete with all the amenities: TV, VCR, refrigerator, microwave, and ice chest. They provide the tackle and equipment. Six-person max. , .. .
Strike Zone. This is one of the few charters to offer morning bottom-fishing trips (for smaller fish such as snapper), as well as deep-sea trips (for the big ones—ono, ahi, mahimahi, and marlin). Strike Zone is a 43-foot Delta that offers plenty of room (16-person max). Lunch and soft drinks are included. The catch is shared with the entire boat. The cost is $168 per adult and $148 per child for a pole; spectators can ride for $78, plus 7% tax. The four- and six-hour bottom-fishing trips run Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; the six-hour deep-sea trips run Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, all weather-permitting. All trips leave at 6:30 am. , .. .
The high-speed, inflatable rafts you find on Maui are nothing like the raft that Huck Finn used to drift down the Mississippi. While passengers grip straps, these rafts fly, skimming and bouncing across the sea. Because they're so maneuverable, they go where the big boats can't—secret coves, sea caves, and remote beaches. Two-hour trips run around $50, half-day trips upward of $100. Although safe, these trips are not for the faint of heart. If you have back or neck problems or are pregnant, you should reconsider this activity.
Blue Water Rafting. One of the few ways to get to the stunning Kanaio Coast (the roadless southern coastline beyond Ahihi-Kinau), this rafting tour begins trips conveniently at the Kihei boat ramp. Dolphins, turtles, and other marine life are the highlight of this adventure, along with sea caves, lava arches, and views of Haleakala. Two-hour trips start at $49 plus tax; longer trips cost $90 to $115 and include a deli lunch. , , . ..
Ocean Riders. This West Maui tour crosses the AuAu Channel to Lanai's Shipwreck Beach, then circles the island for 70 mi of remote coast. For snorkeling, the "back side" of Lanai is one of Hawaii's unsung marvels. Tours—$129 plus tax per person—depart from Mala Wharf, at the northern end of Front Street and include snorkel gear, a fruit breakfast, and a deli lunch. ,. . .
With the islands of Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, and Molokini a stone's throw away, Maui waters offer visually arresting backdrops for sailing adventures. Sailing conditions can be fickle, so some operations throw in snorkeling or whale-watching, and others offer sunset cruises. Winds are consistent in summer, but variable in winter, and afternoons are generally windier all throughout the year. Prices range from around $40 for two-hour trips to $80 for half-day excursions. You won't be sheltered from the elements on the trim racing boats, so be sure to bring a hat (one that won't blow away), a light jacket or cover-up, sunglasses, and extra sunscreen.
Boats and Charters
America II . This onetime America's Cup contender offers an exciting, intimate alternative to crowded catamarans. For fast action, try a morning trade-wind sail. Plan to bring a change of clothes, because you will get wet. Snack and beverages are provided. No one under five years old is permitted. , . . .
Paragon. If you want to snorkel and sail, this is your boat. Many snorkel cruises claim to sail but actually motor most of the way; Paragon is an exception. Both Paragon vessels (one catamaran in Lahaina, the other in Maalaea) are ship-shape, and crews are competent and friendly. Their mooring in Molokini Crater is particularly good, and they often stay after the masses have left. The Lanai trip includes a picnic lunch on the beach, snorkeling, and an afternoon blue-water swim. Extras on their trips to Lanai include mai tais and sodas, hot and cold pupu (Hawaiian tapas), and champagne. A similar spread comes with the sunset sail, which departs from Lahaina Harbor every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. , , .. .
Scotch Mist Charters. Follow the wind aboard this 50-foot Santa Cruz sailing yacht. Three-hour snorkeling, sunset, or whale-watching trips focus on the sail, and usually carry fewer than 25 passengers. Two-hour sunset sails start at $59.95 and include soft drinks, wine, beer, champagne, and chocolate., . ..
Trilogy Excursions. With more than 35 years of sailing tradition and a deep commitment to Hawaiiana and the local ecosystem, Trilogy's reputation is among the best. It is one of only two companies that sail (rather than motor) to Molokini. A two-hour sail starts at $59. Alcohol is not provided on any cruise, but you can bring your choice of libation. Their sunset sail leaves in front of Kaanapali Beach Hotel. Boarding the catamaran right off the shore can be tricky. Timing is everything and getting wet is inevitable, but after that it's smooth sailing. Book online for a 10% discount. , .. .
Hiring a private charter for a sail will cost you more, but it's one way to avoid crowds. Although almost all sailing vessels (including those in this section) offer private charters, a few cater to them specifically. Among the top three, Shangri-La(. ) is the largest and most luxurious 65-foot catamaran. Island Star (.) is a 57-foot Columbia offering customized trips out of Maalaea. Cinderella (.) is a swift and elegant 50-foot Columbia.
From December into May, whale-watching becomes one of the most popular activities on Maui. During the season, all outfitters offer whale-watching in addition to their regular activities, and most do an excellent job. Boats leave the wharves at Lahaina and Maalaea in search of humpbacks, allowing you to enjoy the awe-inspiring size of these creatures in closer proximity.
As it's almost impossible not to see whales in winter on Maui, you'll want to prioritize: is adventure or comfort your aim? If close encounters with the giants of the deep are your desire, pick a smaller boat that promises sightings. Those who think "green" usually prefer the smaller, quieter vessels that produce the least amount of negative impact to the whales' natural environment. If an impromptu marine-biology lesson sounds fun, go with the Pacific Whale Foundation. Two-hour forays into the whales' world are around $30. For those wanting to sip mai tais as whales cruise calmly by, stick with a sunset cruise on a boat with an open bar and pupu (Hawaiian tapas, $40 and up). Afternoon trips are generally rougher because the wind picks up, but some say this is when the most surface action occurs.
Every captain aims to please during whale season, getting as close as legally possible (100 yards). Crew members know when a whale is about to dive (after several waves of its heart-shaped tail) but rarely can predict breaches (when the whale hurls itself up and almost entirely out of the water). Prime-viewing space (on the upper and lower decks, around the railings) is limited, so boats can feel crowded even when half full. If you don't want to squeeze in beside strangers, opt for a smaller boat with fewer bookings. Don't forget to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a light long-sleeve cover-up, and a hat you can secure. Winter weather is less predictable and at times can be extreme, especially as the wind picks up. Arrive early to find parking.
From December 15 to May 1 the Pacific Whale Foundation has naturalists stationed in two places—on the rooftop of their headquarters and at the scenic viewpoint at Papawai Point Lookout (, , , ). Just like the commuting traffic, whales cruise along the pali, or cliff-side, of West Maui's Honoapiilani Highway all day long. Make sure to park safely before craning your neck out to see them.
The northern end of Keawakapu Beach (, ) seems to be a whale magnet. Situate yourself on the sand or at the nearby restaurant, and you're bound to see a mama whale patiently teaching her calf the exact technique of flipper-waving.
Boats and Charters
Marine Charters. Three-hour cruises narrated by a naturalist are offered aboard Pride of Maui, a 65-foot power catamaran (149 passengers max). There's a main cabin, upper sundeck, and swim platform—and you can listen to the whales sing. Trips start at $41.95 per adult, and include pupu (Hawaiian tapas) and an open bar. , . . .
Pacific Whale Foundation. This nonprofit organization pioneered whale-watching back in 1979 and now runs four boats, with 15 trips daily. As the most recognizable name in whale-watching, the crew (with a certified marine biologist on board) offers insights into whale behavior (do they really know what those tail flicks mean?) and suggests ways for you to help save marine life worldwide. The best part about these trips is the underwater hydrophone that allows you to actually listen to the whales sing. Trips meet at the Foundation's store, where you can buy whale paraphernalia, snacks, and coffee—a real bonus for 8 am trips. Passengers are then herded much like migrating whales down to the harbor. These trips are more affordable than others, but you'll be sharing the boat with about 100 people in stadium seating. Once you catch sight of the wildlife up-close, however, you can't help but be thrilled. , . ..
Trilogy Excursions. Trilogy whale-watching trips consist of smaller crowds of about 20 to 30 passengers, and include beverages and snacks, an onboard marine naturalist, and hydrophones (microphones that detect underwater sound waves). Trips are $39 plus tax. Book online for a discount., . . .