Whale watching cruises are offered year round in Half Moon Bay. You can opt for a 3-4 hour trip during the gray whale migration, or choose an all-day trip to the Farallon Islands. All trips leave from Pillar Point Harbor, 4 miles north of Half Moon Bay.
Most of the companies offering whale watching excursions also offer fishing charters, or private charters. Most only offer whale watching on weekends or at limited times (except for private charters), and most do not allow children under age 7 on the boat.
Gray whale watching season lasts from late December into April or early May. Since gray whales migrate close to shore, these excursions don't travel all that far off the coast. You'll see quite a variety of wildlife on these trips, including sea otters and sea lions.
The Farallon Islands are located in the Gulf of the Farallons National Marine Sanctuary, about 26 miles from Pillar Point Harbor. The area is rich in wildlife, including elephant seals, sea lions, great white sharks, dolphins, porpoises, and many species of sea birds. From May through October, humpback whales and blue whales can be found there.
If you prefer, you can also embark on an whale watching excursion to the Farallons from San Francisco.
Half Moon Bay is located about 30 miles south of San Francisco, about a 40 minute drive.