Tips for Whale Watching in San Diego

San Diego's coastline is ideal to watch the annual gray whale migration.

Whale watching
Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson:

It's one of nature's great spectacles: the annual migration of the gray whales, which is one of the largest mammals on earth. San Diego's coastline happens to be one of their passing points during their migratory trek to and from the frigid Arctic waters to the warm water lagoons of Baja California, where the females give birth to their calves. Whether you're a local or visiting San Diego, there is a whale watching experience that's right for you to experience these incredible animals. ​

Why You Should Whale Watch in San Diego 

Each year, around 26,000 gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) make the 10,000-mile journey from the Arctic Sea south to Baja and back. The gray whale's trip is the longest migration undertaken by any mammal. You have a chance to witness part of it in San Diego. 

Whale watching is a fun and memorable activity for anyone, young or old. To spot a gray whale swimming off of the San Diego coastline is one of those awe-inspiring sights that makes you appreciate these gentle giants. Watching a whale breach (propelling their length out of the water, then crashing down) and spy hop (popping their heads up vertically for a good look around) is a sure way to appreciate the size and agility of these creatures, especially from up close.

Gray whales are most frequently seen off San Diego from late December through March, and though you can see them from shore sometimes, particularly high-up spots like Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma or from the cliffs of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, you'll get the best views by taking a whale watching cruise out of San Diego. Here are some of the local San Diego operators which give you the best chance of spotting gray whales.

Whale Watching Tours in San Diego

Hornblower whale-watching cruisesHornblower Cruises & Events will take you on a three-and-a-half hour whale watching excursion. 

Whale watching with Harbor Excursions and Birch AquariumJoin the Birch Aquarium and San Diego Harbor Excursions team for an educational whale-watching experience. 

Whale watching with H&M LandingFrom December to March, H&M Landing offers whale watching tours embarking from San Diego Bay. 

Hike Bike Kayak San DiegoSee migrating whales at eye level with this unique whale watching tour. Hike Bike Kayak offers guided kayak trips to observe whales and the gorgeous sights of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and coastline. 

Dana Wharf Sportfishing Whale Watching Tours
Two hour fully narrated cruises on comfortable boats that depart about an hour north of San Diego in Dana Point -- a good option for those staying in North County San Diego. 

San Diego Whale Watching,Wildlife and Dolphin Tours
Tours generally run three to three-and-a-half hours and each tour is guided by an experienced naturalist who talks about what you'll see on the tour from wildlife to the scenery.