Whale watching cruises are available year round in San Francisco. Depending on the time of year, you'll see gray whales, blue whales, and/or humpback whales. If you're lucky, you might also spot Orcas (killer whales). But there's plenty more to see here. The area is teeming with wildlife, including several species of seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, and great white sharks.
Farallon Islands Photo: Jan Roletto; NOAA
Tours out of San Francisco are a bit of an adventure. They go to the Farallon Islands, located 27 miles offshore. The Farallons are part of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, and the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
The islands are little more than rocky outcrops and are uninhabited, except for a few scientists on Southeast Farallon. You won't be able to go onto the islands, but you'll see plenty from the boat.
Humpback Whale Breaching Photo: Barbara LaCorte, Channel Islands Naturalist Corps
The Refuge is the largest breeding ground for seabirds in the continental United States. Many rare and endangered species can be found here, including the Tufted Puffin, Common Murres, and Brandt's Cormorant.
Many of the companies offering whale watching tours have naturalists on every trip to answer your questions. Be sure to follow their advice and dress in layers; be prepared for adverse weather.
Tours are usually all day affairs, lasting from 6 - 8 hours. Bring your own lunch and refreshments.