Maui Snorkeling Sightings – Hawaiian Octopus

The octopus has recently become quite popular in the online world, but for some of us, it has always been a favorite. This notoriously clever cephalopod mollusk is one of the more uncommon sightings on Maui snorkeling tours, but if you're lucky, you just might spot one. In fact, they've even been seen right here in the Lahaina Harbor, the departure point for our Maui ocean charters. The octopus is nothing if not surprising, and this is likely one of the reasons why it has become so popular.

The type of octopus that you're most likely to see here is the Hawaiian day octopus, known as he'e in the Hawaiian language. He'e tends to be small, and generally a combination of brown and tan mottled hues. It typically lives anywhere from the shallow reef flats to the deep reef slopes as deep as 150 ft (45 m). As its name implies, this species is most active during the day, and will hide in its den where it can sleep at night. You're much less likely to spot the night octopus, which is just as common, but nocturnal. Known as he‘e-makoko in Hawaiian, this species sports a rusty red hue, with spots of white. Unlike its diurnal cousin, the night octopus hunts at night and sleeps in its den throughout the day. Both species are small as octopus go, tending to grow to a maximum of 10 lbs (45 kg), and a span of two to three feet (0.9 m).

Both kinds of Hawaiian octopus can often be tracked back to their den by looking for a pile of broken crab and snail shells, which are remnants of their past meals usually found just outside their doorsteps, so to speak. These clever hunters will come up with all kinds of strategies for reaching their prey, and are widely considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates. In fact, scientists have documented many situations where an octopus learns from its experiences. Everyone knows its arms are nimble and capable, but fewer people know that its eyesight is particularly keen as well. It can easily detect changes in color and movement, which helps it locate both predator and prey.

One of the more popular adaptations of the octopus is the ability to change its skin color and even texture to blend in with its surroundings. This has been an invaluable ability, made possible by millions of pigment cells known as chromatophores, which expand or shrink to create color patterns. This ability helps it communicate with other octopuses, hide from predators or wait in ambush for unsuspecting prey that may wander nearby. When necessary, the octopus can spring into action, darting through the water to get to safety, or to grab that tasty crab that's trying to escape. Their flexible bodies also allow them to squeeze into small spaces for the same purposes.

We hope that you'll join us aboard our Molokini or Lanai snorkeling tour. If you're lucky, patient, and have keen eyes, you may just spot one of these dynamic and elusive coral reef residents. If you need any assistance booking your trip, you'll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Just remember, if you book online, you will save 10% on all our activities.

If you’re crazy about Maui ocean tours and you’re looking for conveniently located and affordable accommodations, you may want to try the Pioneer Inn. This remarkable establishment is no less than 115 years old, and as such, has recently been added to the list of just 37 hotels in the Historic Hotels of America program, within the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Not only is the Inn a fascinating place to stay if you enjoy historic locations, but it’s also on the block adjacent to Lahaina Harbor. That’s where we operate our Maui Whale Watch Tours, along with snorkeling tours and sunset dinner cruises. The inn is just a minute or two away on foot. The Banyan Tree is across the street, and it’s a great spot for getting some shade, browsing arts and crafts booths, and listening to flocks of mynah birds kick up a raucous around sunset.

The Pioneer Inn is among just five other Hawaii hotel icons that are part of the same historic program, one of which was the 52-year-old Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island that was added to the list at the same time. The Best Western-branded Pioneer Inn has a fascinating history of being featured in various films and television shows. Back in 1961, it appeared in “The Devil at 4 O’Clock,” a movie starring early film greats Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra. It has also appeared in “Baywatch,” “Hawaii Five-0,” Hawaiian Eye,” and “Adventures in Paradise.”

The hotels in the Historic Hotels of America program are located in just 18 states and range between 51 years of age to 227 years of age. Considering how young Hawaii is, as a state, it’s impressive that Maui has an operating 115-year-old hotel. If you want to take a peek, you can find the full list of historic hotels in the program at

If you want to learn more about our Maui ocean tours, you’ll find our contact information at the top of the page. We also offer private Maui boat tours, if that’s something that you’re interested in. Remember that you can save 10% on all our activities if you book online. Mahalo!

We live in a digital age, and one of its advantages is the ease of taking pictures to preserve the special moments that we want to remember, not to mention deleting the ones we don’t! Few things are worth photographing more than a beautiful Maui vacation, especially if you join us on one of our breathtaking Maui ocean tours. Whether you opt for a Lanai Snorkel Tour, a Maui Sunset Dinner Cruise, or a Maui Whale Watch Tour, the photo opportunities are endless. Unfortunately, so is the potential for mishaps, unless you get savvy about handling your device onboard. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Wrist straps are worth the small investment! You may not use a wrist strap often, but you should have one when it counts. Sometimes, it can be tricky to get used to the way boats move, but even if you’re totally used to it, you could still drop your phone (or camera) at the wrong moment, and it could end up falling overboard. After all, who hasn’t dropped their cell phone? It’s safe to say that pretty much everyone has. To avoid losing everything on your phone, not to mention the cost of the phone itself, all you have to do is invest less than $10 on a wrist or neck strap to keep your device from going anywhere you don’t want it to.

Get extra prepared with a waterproof case. We’ve talked about this option once before. As ocean tour specialists, you can imagine why we feel that this makes sense. After all, when you’re on a boat, splashing happens, and there are plenty of opportunities for things to get wet unexpectedly. That being said, there are plenty of other times on your Maui vacation that a waterproof case is a valuable choice. Let’s say you’re doing the road through Hana and photographing those mesmerizing waterfalls, until the wind shifts and you get smacked with spray. Perhaps you place your device on the outdoor table on your private lanai while you run inside and grab a drink, only to return just five minutes later and discover that it has rained. Yes, Maui weather is capricious, and you can go from clear skies one moment to frothy white skies the next, and back again just as quickly! So, a waterproof case. Seriously.

The horizon is your guide. Once your device is protected, you can focus on the important things, like taking amazing photos. When you’re out on the ocean, you have a whole lot of open space surrounding you. Most of what you see is ocean and sky. While this can lead to some beautifully creative and freeform pictures, it can also lead to some confusing off-kilter images because the boat was moving when you took the picture. The best way to keep your pictures centered and professional looking is to use the horizon as your alignment guide, particularly if the horizon will be in the picture, as it often is when photographing the humpback whales.

Experiment with settings after you’re onboard. If you arrive on time, which is generally a half-hour before our departure time, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to test your camera settings in the natural lighting you’ll be exposed to while onboard. Adjusting for changing light levels will be important, as you may shift your frame to include a lot of sky, or ocean, or a combination of both, and don’t forget the reflective light bouncing off the water’s surface. Some smartphones allow you to manually adjust for changing light levels, while others simply require you to tap the screen at the point that you want to be illuminated clearly.

Hopefully, these tips will help you get the best possible use out of your device as you capture those memorable Maui vacation moments!

If you’ve ever gone on a Maui whale watch before, you may have learned that Hawaii’s migratory humpback whales tend to prefer the waters off the southern and western coasts of Maui. Whale sightings are highest in this area, which is one of the reasons why we have such a great time hosting our Whale Watch Tour from Lahaina Harbor. The experience is a joy that we can share with our guests in the winter and spring months every year. The interesting question we are asked often is why the North Pacific Humpback Whale population favors these waters so much. Three specific answers have emerged as scientists continue to observe these graceful giants.

1. Lack of predators. Aside from a few kinds of sharks that feed on just the weak, sick and young humpback whales, there are very few predators that kill humpbacks. They include humans and orcas, also known as killer whales. Neither are a threat to humpbacks here in Hawaii. Killing humpbacks is illegal, as these animals are protected, and as for orcas, Hawaii is not a typical part of their habitat. While orcas are known to be found throughout the world’s oceans, seeing them in Hawaii is extremely rare. There are believed to be just 400 individuals throughout the entire Hawaiian island archipelago, which stretches much farther than the main islands. Most orcas prefer to hunt in colder waters, and they are much more common in the waters off Alaska, where the humpback whales have to go to feed in the summer months.

2. Topography. The waters off Maui’s southern and western coastlines is sheltered from the prevailing trade winds, which generally come from a northeastern direction, pushing ocean swells ahead of them in a way that creates turbulent ocean conditions on the north shore. Meanwhile, the south and west shores are shielded from these winds, and some small storms as well. Not only that, but these waters are also surrounded by the islands of Lanai, Molokai and Kaho’olawe. Encircled by these protective land masses, this particular area of our ocean is also shallower than many other locations throughout Hawaii. The surrounding islands form a shallow basin. For example, the water off Lahaina’s coast is only 300 feet or so in depth. It’s a tremendous depth for we humans, but for a 45-foot whale, such a depth is ideal, and researchers have found that humpbacks prefer waters that are this shallow.

3. Temperature. The waters of Hawaii hover in the 75-degree range, with some fluctuation. Since baby whales haven’t yet developed their protective layer of blubber, it helps that their mothers give birth to them in a warm place and then begin fattening them up with milk before journeying back to the northern waters around Alaska. The calm conditions also make for a nice environment where newborn whales can learn how to swim, come up for air and nurse.

It’s our good fortune that the waters off our coast are favored for these unique qualities that humpbacks enjoy. After all, we enjoy these waters for many of the same reasons! Aside from reproductive activities, this is the place where humpback whales go for rest and relaxation. We certainly can’t argue that. So, if you want to see these remarkable creatures in their natural habitat, we hope to see you aboard one of our whale watch tours soon! Mahalo!