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Best time to visit San Diego

Whale Watching

San Diego is a great place to see ocean-faring mammals

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Every winter and spring, from mid-December to April, nature fans from San Diego are able to view the annual gray whale migration. Thousands of gray whales move along the West Coast to reach the warm lagoons of Mexico. The goal of this 621 mi (10,000 km) trek is breeding and calving. After a month "vacation" in Mexico, they return north to their feeding grounds in the Bering Strait of Alaska. So, if you want to see females with calves, go late in the season as they head back with their newborns.

Besides the famous gray whale season, San Diego sees another migration of blue whales. It takes place in summer and early fall, namely mid-June to September. So whale watching is in the area is available nearly all year round.

Best places for whale watching

During the whale watching season, there are plenty of ways to see the migration in San Diego and you don't have to go far. Most whale watching tours are quite short, and chances to see whales are high. Cruises include all kinds of boats and rafts. You can even take a tour on a kayak and paddle as close to whales, seals, and sea lions as possible. You can also see whales from the shoreline. The best viewing spots are located in La Jolla, Scripps Park, Torrey Pines State Reserve, and the Birch Aquarium.

Whale watching tours

For a quiet tour on a sail boat, check out Next Level Sailing, which offers 3.5 to 4 hour tours via yacht for under $80 for adults. Legacy Whale Watching Company offers indoor seating a viewing on a double deck boat. This company also offers a guarantee that if you do not see a whale on your tour, they will offer you a voucher for another tour, free of charge!

Whale watching tips

Most whale watching tours will go out of their way to make you comfortable and ensure that you have a great time. Even if you are relaxing on a beach, scanning the seas, there are a few things you can bring to make your experience more enjoyable.

What to wear

Dress in layers. Going out on a windy day can feel chilly, so bringing a waterproof jacket, closed-toed shoes, and long pants is a good idea. Protect yourself from the sun with glasses, a hat, and sunscreen.

What to bring

To get a better view of the whales you might see out there, bring a pair of binoculars and a camera. And be prepared for the possibility of motion sickness by keeping medication on hand. Finally, four hours can be a long time for anyone, make sure you bring snacks and a beverage to keep you hydrated and energized.

Where to stay

San Diego is a big city, so chances are you will find accommodations that suit your needs. For an in depth listing of hotels, motels, resorts, hostels, bed and breakfasts, or campgrounds for the rustic traveler, check out San Diego's official listing of places to stay.

Practical info

What is the best whale watching tour in San Diego?

Choose from Adventure R.I.B. Rides, Whale Watching San Diego, Flagship Cruises & Events, Next Level Sailing, San Diego Whale Watch, Sail San Diego.

What is the best time of year to see whales in San Diego?

San Diego whale watching season starts December 9. Watch the seasonal migration of California grey whales and blue whales off the San Diego Coast up close and personal. Traditionally, whale watching season runs from December through April.

Can you see orcas in San Diego?

Yes you can! Although they are harder to see.

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