2. Witness Humpback Whales, Maui
Humpback whales are the acrobats of the whale world. They breach (picture a leap, then a backflop), smack their long pectoral fins on the water’s surface, and even spin like underwater ice-skaters. “We don’t exactly know why they do these maneuvers,” says Ed Lyman, resource protection manager for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. “But we suspect that they’re playing, grooming, or even communicating with other whales.” Every year, more than 10,000 of these massive mammals call Hawaii their wintering ground, typically traveling 2,500 nautical miles from Alaska to mate, give birth, and nurse their young. Hawaii is the only state in the nation where all three activities take place. The whale’s main hangout is the waters of Maui Nui—the area between Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Kahoolawe islands. Guessing yet again, researchers assume that they prefer the shallow 600-foot-deep water, crystal-clear visibility, and protection from strong trade winds (thanks to the towering West Maui Mountains and Haleakala Volcano), all of which make for a safe haven to have, and watch after, newborns. Catch one of many boats leaving from Maui’s western shore, and time your trip between January and March, the whales’ peak season.