Whale Worthy

Humpback whales are making their way back to the Hawaiian Islands, and hotels are offering new room-and-cruise packages to encourage guests to see them up close.

By: Marty Wentzel

Humpback whales are making their way back to the Hawaiian Islands, and hotels are offering new room-and-cruise packages to encourage guests to see them up close.

Hawaii whale-watching cruises are generally offered from mid-December through mid-April, but last year’s first whale of the season was spotted on Oct. 30.

“The warm waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands constitute one of the world’s most important humpback-whale habitats,” said Naomi McIntosh, acting director for the National Marine Sanctuary for Humpback Whales. “Two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population roughly 5,000 of the 7,000 migrate to Hawaii each winter.”

Hawaii is the only state in the United States where humpbacks mate, calve and nurse their young, she said.

On The Big Island, Outrigger Waikoloa Beach Resort’s Celebration of Whales runs Nov. 1 to April 15. With every stay of four nights or more, one guest per room gets a free whale-watching cruise. Additional cruise tickets cost $59 per adult and $39 per child. From Dec. 16 to April 15, Outrigger Waikoloa guests are guaranteed a whale sighting or they can return the next day for a complimentary cruise. The catamaran launches from the beach fronting the Outrigger.

On a whale-watch cruise, clients can see the giant creatures slapping their tails, blowing their spouts and leaping out of the water.

“Hawaiian humpbacks are charismatic mammals,” said Peter Thoene, Outrigger Waikoloa Beach sales and marketing director.

“Our goal is to provide our guests with an authentic Hawaiian experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives. Whale watching does just that.”

Other Celebration of Whales activities planned at the 545-room Outrigger Waikoloa include exhibits, lectures and observation and listening stations. Call 800-688-7444.

Maui, one of the state’s most popular islands for viewing humpbacks, has a number of hotel room-and-cruise packages for whale lovers.

The 430-room Kaanapali Beach Hotel is promoting its Kaanapali Whale Encounter, priced at $1,475 per couple. The package includes five nights in a partial oceanview room, a compact rental car and a whale-watching cruise for two people with Trilogy Excursions. Two guests also receive daily buffet breakfast, tickets to the “Black Rock Illusions” dinner show, admission to the nearby Maui Ocean Center and a logo amenity (a lunch bag, a tropical fruit juice and a disposable camera). Call 800-262-8450.

Sheraton Maui’s three-night Wild About Whales package costs $736 per person. Guests receive deluxe oceanfront accommodations, stuffed whales and a two-hour whale-watching cruise. Excursions take place aboard the 53-foot Teralani catamaran, which makes its home in waters fronting the 510-room Sheraton. The package is valid on stays from Dec. 15 to March 15. Call 800-782-9488 and ask for rate code WHALE.

The 191-room Kapalua Bay Hotel & Ocean Villas offers whale watching as one of its free activity options for guests booking the Maui Experience package. Clients get one daily activity per person, per night, stay. Along with seasonal whale watching, activity options include a snorkel/kayaking excursion, a scuba-diving adventure, a gourmet sunset sail, a surfing lesson, golf, tennis, horseback riding, jet skiing, parasailing, a massage, a pineapple plantation tour, tickets to the Ulalena show or a luau admission.

Good for visits from Jan. 1 to Dec. 21, 2003, the package comes with a two-night minimum stay. Rates start at $450 per room, per night. Call 800-367-8000.