Sunscreens have been making headlines lately due to their contribution to coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Coral bleaching is the phenomenon whereby coral loses its color and rejects symbiotic organisms, essentially killing the coral. While rising sea temperatures are the main culprit behind coral bleaching, researchers believe oxybenzone, a UV blocker used in many popular sunscreens, is aiding in the destruction of coral reefs as put forth in this 2015 study: “Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

While the researchers focused on oxybenzone, it’s not the only ingredient in sunscreen that is harming the coral. Here are the five ingredients you need to avoid when purchasing sunscreen:

  1. Oxybenzone: used in over 3,500 different sunscreens worldwide
  2. Octinoxate: which lasts longer on the body than oxybenzone, but is used less frequently by manufacturers because it’s known to be even more dangerous to the ocean
  3. Octocrylene
  4. 4-mehtylbenzylidene: 4MBC, which is banned in the U.S., but not in Canada and parts of Europe
  5. Butyparaben

Zinc oxide and organic sunscreens, especially those that are 100% biodegradable, while still possibly damaging, are believed to be much better alternatives than those using the five dangerous compounds listed above.

The best choice, though, is to avoid sunscreen altogether. Instead of sunscreen, we recommend you simply cover up when swimming in the ocean. Sun protection shirts and rash guards are cool looking and do a good job of protecting the skin. Wearing a hat to the beach is always smart. Using umbrellas and tents to create shade are also excellent ways to avoid direct sunlight.

We realize, however, that covering up isn’t always practical. You came to Hawai’i to play in the sunshine! The non-profit, non-partisan Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a fantastic Sunscreen 101 guide that lists over 250 reef-safe sunscreens, including the best kid-friendly ones. They’ve even built a little Amazon store so you can purchase these products online. Additionally, there are a few locally made, reef-friendly sunscreens. Three examples are Raw Love, SolKine and Mama Kuleana.

On Maui, reef-healthy(er) sunscreens can be found at health food stores (such as Hawaiian Moons in Kihei, or Whole Foods in Kahului), as well as surf shops. Be sure to carefully read the active ingredients listed on the bottle because some manufacturers will say they are “reef-friendly,” but then go ahead and use harmful ingredients. Again, avoid the five dangerous ingredients listed above, and you’ll be doing your part to help save the coral reef.

The Hawai’i state legislature attempted to ban oxybenzone from our waters, but the bill stalled on the last day of the 2017 session. State lawmakers are already working to pass the bill in 2018. If it passes, Hawai’i will become the first state in the union to ban oxybenzone.

The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (honu) is one of the most the most beloved native species that you can find here on Maui. They show up in a seemingly endless array of artwork, jewelry, gifts, film, photographs, and the list goes on. Why are they so popular? Well, sea honu sightings tend to leave a lasting impression on residents and visitors alike. There’s something captivating about these unique marine reptiles. The best way to understand the fascination is to catch a glimpse of them yourself. Luckily for us and for our guests, they tend to be a common sight on our Lanai snorkel boat trips. If you’re on the island, maybe you’ll have the opportunity to join us and view them in their natural habitat.

If we’re lucky, we may even spot one of the six young honu that were recently released into the waters of Ma’alaea Bay by the Maui Ocean Center (MOC). Yes, humans have had to step in to help ensure future generations of honu, because they are listed as an endangered species. These particular turtles were born in captivity at Sea Life Park in 2015 and then raised at the MOC. During their time at the aquarium, they helped educate visitors about the lives of honu and the threats that they’re facing. Once they reached an appropriate age, it was time for their release, which they performed with a private ceremony.

The six turtles were each given names: Maluhia, Mohalu, Kao Lele, Lipaki, Koa and Kunoa. Unlike some of the turtles that have been released in the past, these haven’t been fitted with GPS trackers, but they do have what’s called a Passive Integrated Transponder Tag, which allows them to be identified if they’re found. Also, their shells are marked with “MOC” and they are individually numbered one through six. If you happen to spot one, the MOC would appreciate if you’d give them a call at (808) 270-7075 or reach them via social media to let them know which individual you saw and where it was located.

So, if you join one of our Maui snorkeling tours, you’ll have yet another reason to keep your eyes peeled for these animals. The odds of spotting one of these six turtles is low, especially considering the many wild individuals out there in addition to the 66 other turtles that the MOC has released since 1998. But stranger things have happened! In fact, the turtles that did have GPS trackers in the past tended to stay in the waters surrounding Maui, with the exception of one individual that made the long journey to both O’ahu and the Big Island. If most of the released turtles stay in the area, we have higher odds of spotting them as we travel the waters of Maui County.

If you need any assistance booking your tour, you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!

By now, you’ve probably heard there’s a solar eclipse occurring on August 21. But you may be wondering if you can see it from Maui. We’ll attempt to answer some of your basic questions…

I’ll be on Maui on August 21. Will I be able to see the eclipse?
The short answer is yes, and no.

That was helpful. Can you be a little be a little more specific?
Sure. According to eclipse2017.org, you should be able to view a partial eclipse during sunrise, beginning at approximately 5:50 AM and ending at around 7:25 AM.

Since it’s just a partial eclipse, can I view it with my naked eyes?
NO!!! Definitely not. But, the folks at Space.com put together an excellent viewing guide that we highly recommend you check out.

Back to the basics. What is a total solar eclipse?
In simple terms, it’s when the sun is completely blocked by the moon, thus blotting out the light. Because of our location, in relation to the event, we will only be able to see a partial eclipse.

How long does the “darkness” last?
In this case, it should last up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

I think I just decided I want to see the full eclipse! Where should I go?
On the mainland, the eclipse path starts in Oregon, followed by Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and finally, South Carolina.

Oh, maybe I don’t want to travel to see it. Is there somewhere I can watch the full eclipse on the internet?
Of course. You can see everything on the internet! NASA will be showing the event live on their website.

One last bit of trivia… did you know the last full solar eclipse that could be seen in the United States occurred here in Hawaii in 1991?

Are you planning on waking up early for the eclipse? Tell us where you plan to watch it on Twitter @HIOceanProject and Instagram @hawaiioceanproject.

One of the first things to expect on your Maui vacation is the variable weather conditions. Although the island is just 727 square miles, it features plenty of microclimates. The reason why is because within that relatively small range of miles, you can go from sea level to an elevation of 10,023 feet at the summit of Haleakala. Not only that, but the presence of the West Maui Mountains adds even more dynamic to the weather patterns of the aptly nicknamed Valley Isle.

Overall, the weather on Maui tends to be pleasantly warm throughout the year, because the ocean acts as a temperature buffer that helps prevent excessive heat and cold. It also helps that Hawaii is closer to the equator than any other state in the nation. That is, if you enjoy warm weather. The waters around Maui are so hospitable that humpback whales consistently show an overwhelming preference for its southern and western coastlines in the winter months when they come to breed and give birth to their offspring.

Aside from these general qualities, many visitors have found themselves surprised by five minute spates of rain thrown down from relatively blue skies near the North Shore, or by the freezing cold temperatures at the summit of Haleakala at night. If you enjoy sightseeing, you’ll want to know the basic weather trends of Maui, so you can avoid any inconvenient surprises.

Before we plunge into the weather patterns of various areas, it’s important to know that the winter months tend to be the wettest, thanks to the prevailing trade winds that come from the north. For reference, winds coming from the south are known as Kona winds. Wetter months tend to arrive around mid-November and persist until late March. Of course, this varies year to year, and it’s also worth keeping in mind that any part of the island can get rainy or crystal clear days in the winter. Now, let’s talk about typical weather patterns in specific areas.


1. If you’re looking for the warmest, driest conditions on the island, you’ll find them in South Maui, which gets the lowest rainfall and provides many miles of gorgeous white sand beach, along with a number of outstanding snorkeling spots. This area includes Kihei, Wailea, and Makena, in that order as you proceed south, down the coastline. When the trade winds are blowing from the north, this is one of the last areas of the island that those winds reach. This also means that the waters along this coast are protected from the swells that come with the trade winds. When the much less prevalent Kona winds come from the south, conditions are windier and the water is choppier.

2. West Maui tends to be almost as dry, and includes Lahaina, Ka’anapali, and Kapalua, in that order as you head north along the coast. The further north you get, the more likely you’ll get some rainfall. Kapalua, which is the most northerly of the group, tends to be the greenest of the three, but you have to go quite a bit further north to find rainforest. Because the trade winds tend to come from a northeasterly direction, you’ll find calm waters off these shores, unless a Kona wind from the south is kicking up the swells.

3. Central Maui tends to be dry, but Kahului is close enough to the North Shore that rain clouds will sometimes get blown in by the trades. Above Kahului, on the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains, you’ll find Wailuku, which features a lush landscape and frequent showers. Clouds regularly gather at the peaks above, fed in part by the humidity of the jungle environments that are established in that area. The rain tends to form its own cycle at this location.

4. North Shore Maui features regular showers, particularly in the winter months. They often consist of no more than drizzle, coming and going suddenly, which makes this part of the island a great place for rainbows. The regular but inconsistent rainfall is owed to the trade winds, which bring storm clouds to North Shore before they get to the rest of the island. That is, if they get to the rest of the island. Although the elevation of the North Shore is low and not much of an obstacle, these clouds will often drop their rain there and dissipate as they move inland, away from the ocean humidity that formed them. Some of the island’s finest surfing locations are found here because of the swells delivered by the trade winds. In fact, the North Shore is considered by many to be the windsurfing capital of the world because the conditions are so ideal for the sport.

5. Upcountry includes a wide variety of microclimates because it describes several areas on the slopes of Haleakala, facing Central Maui. Toward the northern and rainier side, you’ll find Makawao, with Olinda perched above it. In the middle, there is Pukalani, with Kula up above, both of which tend to be dry. Last but not least, on the south side, you find Ulupalakua, which tends to get little rainfall, unless the less prevalent Kona winds bring storm clouds in from the south. Another distinct quality of the Upcountry areas is the pronounced temperature change that you’ll discover as you climb in elevation. You’ll find the air cooler and less humid the farther up the mountain you go. At the top of the mountain, temperatures can reach freezing levels at night in the winter. Even if you visit the Crater during the day in summer, you’ll want to wear some layers. The air is not only cold, but thin at about ten thousand feet, so be careful not to overexert yourself.

6. East Maui is dominated by Hana and a rainforest microclimate. The trade winds bring storms not only to the coast, but up against the slopes of this remote side of Haleakala. Hana can get around 80″ of rain per year, but those levels fluctuate quite a bit depending on the location within this expansive area of the island. When traveling from North Shore Maui to East Maui, you’ll pass through Haiku, which is another of the rainiest regions of the island, thanks again to the trade winds.


We hope that this handy guide will help you prepare for the weather conditions that you might encounter on Maui. It could also help you decide where you want to find accommodations, and areas where you might like to try some Maui tours and activities. Our Maui ocean tours operate from Lahaina Harbor, one of the calmest, sunniest locations on the island. As for questions about our tours, you’ll find our contact information at the top of the page if you need our assistance. Mahalo!

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!

Discussions about the weather can get a whole lot more riveting when it comes to your vacation. After all, these plans often include spending quite a bit of money, taking time off work, and sometimes even brainstorming for months on activities, sights and accommodations to experience. That's why checking into the weather at your destination is such an important step.

As a Maui ocean tour company, the weather matters to us as much as it matters to you. That's because we're happy when you're happy, and if you aren't very familiar with Maui's winter weather patterns, that's where we can help. We operate on the vast majority of days out of the year, because the weather tends to be calm enough to do that. Our tours include Molokini and Lanai Snorkeling Trips, Whale Watching Tours, and Sunset Dinner Cruises. As you might imagine, outings like these wouldn't be possible in rough weather. Fortunately, there are advantages to operating here in Lahaina.

On Maui, the prevailing winds, known as the Trade Winds, come from a northeasterly direction. That means North Shore and East Maui tend to get the most rain and the highest winds, while the opposite side of the island, including South Maui and West Maui, are much more sheltered. The West Maui Mountains and Haleakala both do a lot to break up small storms and slow the wind. This is considered to be one of the main reason why humpback whales tend to congregate in their thickest number on this side of the island. Not only is the weather calmer above the surface of the water, but below the surface as well. Naturally, mother whales tend to prefer the calmest possible waters when they are giving birth to their calves here in Hawaii, so we see a lot of the youngsters in our area.

A rule of thumb that's worth keeping in mind is that the weather on Maui tends to be calmest in the early hours of the morning, with the wind and waves picking up more toward the end of the day. On the really good days, things are mild from sunrise to sunset, but it's still a good idea to plan to take advantage of the early morning calm. That's why most of our tours operate in the morning, with a few in the early afternoon.

As for the winter months, you can generally expect temperatures in the mid to high 70's and sometimes up into the 80's, if you're at sea-level. Although Hawaii is often referred to as a tropical paradise, we are technically in a sub-tropical latitude, which means we're further from the equator than some might assume. For that reason, we do get some seasonal weather variation. The big tropical storms tend to form around the month of August, when the ocean's surface is particularly warm and able to feed big storms. By the winter, the waters cool off enough to make those storms less likely. Instead, the winter months tend to see smaller but more frequent storms. Luckily, they tend to come and go quickly. In fact, at one point or another, most long-term Maui residents have noticed it raining on one side of the house and not on the other.

Of course these are just the general trends in terms of Maui weather, and it helps to keep them in mind. However, it's worth checking various weather reports when you make your plans, or at the very least, you can benefit from keeping an eye on the sky. If you book a tour with us, we'll let you know what we expect from the weather, as long as you ask. We hope we'll see you onboard soon! Mahalo!

If you love the ocean as much as we do, you may be interested in the following simple strategies to reduce your impact. Some of these strategies apply to your time spent around the ocean, and others apply wherever you are. So whether you're on vacation and planning a Maui ocean tour activity, or you're back home reading about the health of the ocean, we hope you'll enjoy these tips!

1. Use reef safe sunscreen. Here in Hawaii, coral reefs have to contend with substantial quantities of chemicals deposited in the water every day by a myriad of swimmers, including vacationers and local residents alike. Some of these chemicals can cause serious damage, making it all the more difficult for these slow-growing animals to thrive in their vibrant colonies. Fortunately, there are now reef-safe sunscreens on the market that are not yet zero impact, but are definitely healthier. Look for one with zinc oxide or titanium, which are natural minerals that have not been found to harm corals.

2. Nix the helium balloons and the single-use bottles and bags. You probably already know what we're going to say about this. helium balloons that get lost sometimes end up in the ocean. Here in Hawaii, it's especially likely that when it finally comes down again, it'll end up in the water. Given enough time, the ocean and the suns radiation can break down pretty much everything, but not as fast as plastics are being dumped in the ocean. Unfortunately, a lot of this stuff is dangerous to marine life. If you must use these kinds of items, reuse and recycle them if you can.

3. Choose sustainable seafood. Some seafood consumption takes a heavy toll on the environment. Fishing strategies like trolling are known to cause serious damage to marine ecosystems, and some fish stocks are depleted and need time to recover. How do you keep track of all this? The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a Seafood Watch guide that simply lists seafood types according to how sustainable they are. You can print it out, or look for their app for iPhone and Android.

4. Look but don't touch. It may be tempting to play with that red pencil urchin or pick up a sea cucumber, but please resist the urge. You may think that it's okay just once, but some of these creatures contend with human interference from other individuals every day. Feel like keeping that pretty shell in the tide pool? Another hermit crab goes homeless, and this is no exaggeration, because they are often forced to fight with each other over their next suitable home. And whatever you do, don't try to ride the turtles, because climbing on a stranger isn't polite. You might get scolded by your fellow explorers, or worse, bit by the turtle.

5. Support environmentally friendly activities. If you really wanted to start with us, we couldn't say no! Want to learn how our Maui ocean tours support Hawaii's marine environment? You can read all about it on our Research Recipients page.

We hope to see you soon on one of our tours so we can show you the best of Hawaii's marine ecosystems! If you need our assistance, you'll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!

Change happens one person at a time, and sometimes one company at a time. Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, Florida, has come up with a brilliant packaging material to keep our ocean clean and free from damaging and sometimes deadly plastic. Six-pack rings made from plastic are possibly the most notorious kind of garbage because of the serious damage they do to marine life through ingestion and entanglement. With this in mind, Saltwater Brewery has cooked up an edible substitute for their six-packs.

This innovative craft beer company took sustainability yet another step forward by making the packaging from their own beer by-products. The barley, wheat and other ingredients are combined for a product that isn't just safe for fish to eat, but even for humans. Of course they don't have to be ingested to break down. They are 100 percent biodegradable and compostable.

Remarkably, the packaging is just as resistant and efficient as plastic, making it perfectly functional and harmless in the environment. The only difference is that it costs a bit more at this point, a factor that Saltwater Brewery hopes its customers will be willing to support for another step toward a healthier environment. If more breweries invest in this type of packaging, the prices could drop in the future, and that's a possibility that Saltwater Brewery is hoping for.

If you join us on a Maui snorkel tour, you'll discover how uncommonly clean our waters are from plastic debris and other trash. Hawaii's land area is miniscule compared to the breadth of the ocean surrounding it, and the population here takes its environmental health seriously, but debris can drift from any landmass to virtually any other landmass on Earth, so even our waters get some of it at times. That's why this innovative packaging choice is so inspiring.

This is the first time a 100 percent edible and biodegradable beer packaging has been implemented in the beer industry. If you want to learn more about this great little company and watch a short, informative video about their packaging, you can check out the community page at www.saltwaterbrewery.com. If you need any assistance with your Maui ocean activities, you'll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!

An entangled humpback was first spotted on February 13th near the Big Island trailing hundreds of feet of heavy gauge line – some that was partially embedded in its tail. Due to inclement weather and other extenuating circumstances, no immediate response could be made. Fortunately, The West Hawaii Marine Mammal Response Network was able to tag the whale and track its location until a rescue attempt could be made.

It wasn’t until February 20th that a response team tracked the whale to the leeward side of Maui, and launched their rescue attempt out of Maalaea Harbor just before 8:00am. Using techniques rarely seen since the heyday of whaling, the team used an inflatable boat to get near the whale and attached buoys in an attempt to prevent it from diving. The 8-hour operation saw the humpback freed of nearly all the line, with the exception of about six feet which scientists expect will be expelled over time and its wounds to heal. Prior to releasing it, tissue samples were taken to ascertain its health which was found to be in fair to moderate condition.

Whale entanglements are growing increasingly more common; averaging at least one death a year, while it’s estimated that about 75% of whales bear scars from it. We’re so grateful that this humpback had a happy ending and will live to return to beautiful Hawaiian waters on many more occasions. If you see an entangled whale or distressed marine mammal call NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) at (888) 256-9840, and please do not approach it on your own as it can be dangerous not only for yourself, but for the animal as well.

Here at Hawaii Ocean Project we are extremely respectful of the ocean and all of the amazing animals that live in it. With only three months left in whale watching season, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that we offer an early bird special whale watch tour at the extremely affordable cost of $19.21 for adults and $17.07 for children. You never know – we may see our friend, the freed humpback!