Monterey Whale Watching Cruises

Cruises can last anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, and most include expert information on whales and other marine animals.

Most of the vessels have snack bars onboard, but you may also be allowed to bring your own food and drink. Be sure to dress in layers, because it can get chilly out on the water.

Monterey Bay whale watching cruises explore the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, an area that is teeming with marine life, including several species of whales. This is the largest marine sanctuary in the nation, and is home to 33 species of marine mammals and 94 species of seabirds. The most common whales seen here are California gray whales, humpback whales, and blue whales.

Cruises leave from harbors in Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, and Monterey.

Santa Cruz

  • Stagnaro Charter Boats offers year round cruises, with an experienced crew and naturalists. Whale watching cruises last 3 to 4 hours. They also offer a 1 hour scenic bay cruise, and a 2 hour sunset cruise, as well as private charters. Their main vessel is a 60 foot touring yacht with a full galley, indoor and outdoor seating. Located at Santa Cruz Harbor.
  • Chardonnay II offers a different whale watching experience aboard a 70 foot sailing yacht. The boat carries 49 passengers and features a full galley and dining area, plus many luxury amenities. The tour includes discussions about whales and marine ecology. Refreshments are provided, including champagne, orange juice, coffee, fresh pastries and fresh fruit. They also offer a variety of themed sails, and private charters. Located at Santa Cruz Harbor.
  • Santa Cruz Sportfishing offers seasonal whale watching cruises during the annual gray whale migration, from January through March. Their vessel is the Makaira, a 35 foot deluxe catamaran, which can carry 6 passengers and 2 crew. Trips last from 2.5 to 3 hours. Located at Santa Cruz Harbor,
  • Venture Quest Kayaking Tours offers guided kayaking tours in Moss Landing, Davenport Landing, and Santa Cruz. Tours vary according to season. They also offer other types of kayaking tours, classes, sales and rentals. Located at Santa Cruz Wharf.
  • Kayak Connection offers guided kayak tours from March through May, to see the California gray whale migration. Tours leave from Santa Cruz harbor, and last for 3 hours. Kayak Connection also offers a variety of tours in Elkorn Slough, Santa Cruz and in other areas around the Monterey Bay. Rentals and classes are also available. They have locations at Santa Cruz Harbor and Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing.

  • Moss Landing

  • Sanctuary Cruises offers year round whale watching cruises out of Moss Landing. Cruises last for 4 hours, sometimes 5. Their vessel holds 39 passengers, but trips are limited to fewer than that for a more casual atmosphere. The boat features indoor and outdoor seating, a restroom, and a snackbar. Located at Moss Landing Harbor.


  • Monterey Bay Whale Watch offers year round trips, with experienced captains, and marine biologists on board. Their vessels are large (70 foot and 55 foot) with indoor and outdoor seating, and restrooms. Trip lengths vary with the seasons, ranging from 3 to 5 hours. Located at 84 Fisherman's Wharf.
  • Princess Monterey Whale Watching offers year round trips with marine biologists or naturalists and experienced captains. Their vessels are large (100 foot and 75 foot) and offer indoor and outdoor seating and restrooms. Trips last from 2.5 to 3 hours. They've been in operation for 30 years. Located at 96 Old Fisherman's Wharf #1.
  • Chris' Whale Watching Tours offers year round excursions with experienced, knowledgeable captains. Tour length varies seasonally, from 2 to 3 hours. Their fleet of boats ranges from 51 foot to 68 foot. The company has been in business for over 60 years. Located at Old Fisherman's Wharf.
  • Randy's Fishing Trips & Whale Watching offers year round trips, which include experienced naturalists. The business has been in operation for over 60 years. Their vessels are 53 foot and 61 foot, with indoor and outdoor seating and restrooms. Trips last about 3 hours. They also offer sport fishing and specialty cruises, such as photography expeditions and sailing. Located at Old Fisherman's Wharf.

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