Spotting whales in the wild is one of the most awe-inspiring animal encounters that any adventure traveler could ever ask for. These massive creatures leave quite an impression, especially when they breach out of the water, giving you a look at just how large they truly are. If you've always wanted to have the opportunity to encounter whales in their natural habitat, we have six suggestions for the best destinations to do just that.
Inside Passage, Alaska
Alaska is beyond a doubt one of the best places to spot whales. The waters off its coast are home for humpbacks, orcas, belugas, gray whales, and even the incredibly elusive and endangered blue whale – the largest creature to ever live on the our planet. Head to the Inside Passage where you'll be able to take short excursions out onto the water or cruises lasting several weeks, giving you plenty of time to see these amazing creatures.
Best Time to Visit: May - August. Several species come and go during that time frame, but humpbacks and orcas are especially plentiful.
The Baja Coast of Mexico and California is a fantastic destination for spotting a wide variety of whales. Humpbacks and orcas are common in the region, which is where many species migrate to escape the colder temperatures of winter. It is here – and only here – that gray whales will give birth to their young, which means they can often be spotted in large numbers during the calving season. The 800-mile long Baja Peninsula is also home to thousands of dolphins as well, adding to the wonder of the places.
Best Time to Visit: February - April. After that, the whales begin to migrate to other regions of the Pacific.
While whales can be spotted at just about any point along Iceland's coast, the absolute best viewing can be found off the northern shore traveling out of the town of Húsavík. There, you'll find not only humpbacks, orcas, and blue whales, but also the less-common minke whales as well. All told, more than 20 different species can be found in the Northern Atlantic during the summer months, when the Midnight Sun makes it easy to spot the creatures all day long.
Best Time to Visit: April - September. If you want to see blue whales, schedule your visit for July and August, when they are most common in the area.
Monterey Bay, California
California's Monterey Bay is a fantastic place to spot whales simply for the fact that the creatures are seemingly in the region all year round. Humpbacks are common in the warmer months, while gray whales pass through on their annual migration back to Baja. Orcas follow the migrating pods in search of food, while blue whales have made more of an appearance in recent years as well.
Best Time to Visit: Year round! Humpbacks and blue whales can be seen from April to December, while grays and orcas are there from December to April.
Hermanus, South Africa
The self-proclaimed whale watching capital of the world is Hermanus, South Africa. Located along the Western Cape, the town is situated along a stretch of the coast where numerous species of whales come to feed in preparation for mating and birthing season. In fact, the whales are so thick at times that they can be easily spotted from the shore, without any need to climb aboard a boat at all. The more adventurous amongst us may enjoy seeing them up close and personal in a sea kayak as well.
Best Time to Visit: July - November. Peak season for whale watching in Hermanus comes in October, but a visit during the any of those months will almost guarantee a whale encounter.
Few places on Earth can match the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica when it comes to whale watching. Of the 33 known species of whales that inhabit the region, 22 visit the island on a regular basis, with the most common being humpbacks, pilot whales, and pygmy sperm whales. But, the real stars of the show are the full-sized sperm whales, which live in the waters around the island all year round. This doesn't happen anywhere else on the planet, as this species mates, births, and raises its young in the same waters without ever migrating elsewhere. As a result, they are often easy to spot, even from land.
Best Time to Visit: All year long, although peak season runs from November to April.