Looking at the map on this page and thinking like an animal that's got a very long swim ahead of it, you can guess where they'll be closest to shore - and you'd be right. Whale watching tours in the Los Angeles area start from Long Beach, San Pedro and a few other coastal locations.
Orange County whale watching is mostly from Dana Point and Newport Beach and it's all summarized in the Orange County Whale Watching Guide.
If you want to know more about the animals you can see, check the guide to Whales and Dolphins of the California Coast.
Best Time for Whale Watching in the Los Angeles Area
Whale watching season in the LA area centers on the seasonal gray whale migration in winter and blue whales in summer.
Whale Watching Cruises in Long Beach
A downside of taking your trip from Long Beach is the long, slow trip you have to make through the harbor before you reach open water.
The Aquarium of the Pacific runs seasonal gray whale watches and blue whale cruises. They're operated by Harbor Breeze, whose boats are custom made for whale watching and there's a marine biologist on board to explain things.
Whale Watching Cruises in San Pedro
San Pedro is home to the Port of Los Angeles, located near the apex of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Several companies offer whale watch trips, but all of them have to make a long, slow trip out of the harbor into open water before the whale watching can begin.
- The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium hosts whale watching trips during the gray whale migration. See the details at their website.
- Spirit Cruises 404 does a nice harbor tour and they also offer two-hour whale watches in season
- LA Harbor Sportfishing has a big boat that goes out a couple of times a day when the whales are migrating
Whale Watching Cruises in Other Parts of the Los Angeles Area
Whale watch cruises also depart from Redondo Beach and Marina Del Rey.
It's not a cruise, but it sounds like fun. Newport Landing partners with Riter Aviation for whale watching from the air, departing from the Santa Monica or Torrance Airports. See the details at their website.
- Redondo Sport Fishing runs a couple of cruises a day from December through mid April, leaving from the Sports Fishing Pier in Redondo Beach Marina.
- Also in Redondo Beach, Voyager Excursions operates a large boat with double-decker seating for the best views and a trained naturalist narrates each whale watch adventure. They offer trips to see both gray and blue whales in season.
- Marina Del Rey Sportfishing runs whale watches and eco tours year round.
Whale Watching from the Shore Around Los Angeles
The best places for whale watching from land in the Los Angeles area are the places where the whales come closest. most of the whales that you will encounter will likely be between Point Fermin lighthouse to the south and Point Vicente lighthouse – built in 1926 – on the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the north. Here
- San Pedro and Palos Verdes: Along the coast between the Point Fermin Lighthouse and the Point Vicente Lighthouse, a deep channel provides a migratory path for the whales, making the high coastal cliffs one of the best places to watch them from. The Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Rancho Palos Verdes is where the L.A. Chapter of the American Cetacean Society goes for their annual whale census project.
- At Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu, rangers sometimes host special whale watching walks in April and May
- Northern Malibu Coast: Just north of Zuma Beach, you can find some nice places to sit in the sand dunes and watch for passing whales and at Point Dume, you can find some great, sheltered spots where you can sit and look out over the ocean for them.
How to Enjoy Whale Watching in Long Beach, San Pedro and LA
No matter where you watch the whales, some things are the same. Get tips for picking the best cruise and ways to have the most enjoyable experience in the California Whale Watching Guide.
More things Whale-Related in the Los Angeles Area
In March, Rancho Palos Verdes celebrates a Whale of a Day
Created by marine artist Wyland, Whaling Wall #31 is located on North Harbor Drive in Redondo Beach
A 63-foot-long fin whale skeleton, all 221 bones of it hangs in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County entrance area, but don't worry that an animal met an untimely fate just for the exhibit. It died in 1926 at the hands of Humboldt County whalers and has hung at the museum since 1944.
A life-sized blue whale replica hangs in the downstairs gallery of the Aquarium of the Pacific.