Whale Watching in California

Whale Watching Cruises, Tours, and Festivals

Looking for a great place to go whale watching? California has a lot to offer. You can get up close to these behemoths on whale watching cruises, which are offered year round in many places. During gray whale watching season, you can spot whales from land, and many communities hold whale watching festivals and special events to celebrate the return of the gray whales.

Gray whales are the most abundant whale species seen along the California coast, but humpback whales and blue whales are also commonly spotted. Other whale species found here include orcas (killer whales), fin back whales, minke whales, and others.

Whale Watching California Cruises

Photo © Sam Chadwick / Dreamstime.com

Whale watching cruises are available all along the California coast. In Northern California, they're offered only during the gray whale migration, from December through April. From San Francisco and south, however, excursions are often offered year round, to view humpback and blue whales during their migrations.

On most whale watching cruises, you'll likely encounter a variety of seals, dolphins, porpoises, and sea birds as well. Check out these whale facts before you go.

Whale Watching San Francisco Style: By Land and By Sea | San Francisco Whale Watching Cruises  Whale Watching Cruises in Half Moon Bay | San Diego Whale Watching

Whale Watching from Land

Point Reyes Lighthouse  Photo © iStockphoto.com/Kaz Okawa

For landlubbers, there are many places to observe the annual gray whale migration, including favorite spots on headlands, promontories and even lighthouses. Some of the state parks hold Whale Walks, which include informational talks. Point Reyes National Seashore is such a popular spot that they have to close the road to the headlands during whale watching season, and provide bus service instead.

In Southern California, the best spot for whale watching is Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, which offers great views. The peak time here is in mid-January.

Check out the best places for California whale watching from land.

Whale Pictures

Humpback Whale Photo© istockphoto/Josh Friedman

Before you head out to do a little whale watching in California, take a look at these whale pictures. They'll help you identify the whales and show you what to look for.

Gray Whale Pictures | More Gray Whale Pictures | Humpback Whale Pictures

More Humpback Whale Pictures | Blue Whale Pictures | More Blue Whale Pictures