Dolphin Watching Out of San Diego | Adventuress Luxury Catamaran

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Dolphin Watching Out of San Diego

Dolphin Watching Out of San Diego

Jan 11, 2019

Whale watching may get more of the attention here in San Diego but dolphin watching is just as fun and exciting. These amazing marine mammals love to jump and play, making them a joy to watch in their natural habitat. Here’s what you need to know about dolphin watching in San Diego. 

Dolphin Basics 

There are many different species of dolphin. They all fall into the class of cetaceans, a group that also includes porpoises and toothed whales. The defining factors of this group of sea-dwelling mammals are a single or double blowhole on the top of the head, two flippers at the front of the body, and tail flukes that swing vertically to propel the animal through the water. Within the dolphin family, you’ll also see cone-shaped teeth that interlock with one another, as well as a dorsal fin that curves towards the back of the body. 

Types of Dolphins You Might See in San Diego 

There are four primary types of dolphins you are likely to see in San Diego, though other species may make rare appearances from time to time. 

Common Dolphins 

Common dolphins can have either short or long beaks. They are typically gray in color with white on the belly. They also have distinctive light gray and tan hourglass-shaped markings on their sides. Fully grown, they generally reach about 7.5 to 8.5 feet in length and weigh about 300 pounds. In general, males are larger than females. 

You can find common dolphins all over the world as they can thrive in both tropical and cold waters. They tend to congregate in herds of around 100 dolphins so they are typically easy to spot when they are in the area. They’ll even join mixed-species groups, including other dolphin species, whales, and even sea lions. 

Common dolphins are active and playful, often leaping high above the water or riding the wakes of ships. This makes them incredibly exciting to watch. In San Diego, you’ll typically see the long-beaked variety as they tend to come in closer to the shore. On cruises that take you farther out to sea, you’ll have a greater chance of spotting short-beaked common dolphins. 

Common Bottlenose Dolphins 

The bottlenose dolphin is the species that most people first imagine when they think about dolphins. The species is known for being acrobatic. You’ll often see them jumping out of the water, even performing somersaults! Because of this, bottlenose dolphins are often featured in movies, TV and aquarium shows. 

Bottlenose dolphins are usually gray with light bellies. Their most defining feature is the prominent beak, which is what gives the species its name. Adult dolphins of this species typically grow to about 10 to 14 feet in length, weighing in at around 1,400 pounds. Like the common dolphin, males tend to be larger than females. However, the bottlenose dolphins that come in closest to shore tend to be on the smaller side, with the larger ones staying farther out to sea. 

These dolphins like to travel in groups of fewer than 100, and they’ll often switch from one group to another. They can be found all over the world in both warm and cold waters. They prey on fish, squid, and crustaceans so they can find plenty of food in the large kelp forest just off San Diego’s coast. 

dolphin watching in san diego

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins 

As you may have guessed from the name, Pacific white-sided dolphins live only in the Pacific Ocean, particularly in the colder waters in the northern hemisphere. They are incredibly flexible in their herd configurations, with groups ranging in size from just a dozen animals all the way up to several thousand. They’ll even mix with other dolphin species, whales and sea lions. Although you may be able to spot Pacific white-sided dolphins in San Diego throughout the year, you’ll have the best luck from November to April. 

Like many other dolphin species, Pacific white-sided dolphins are playful and acrobatic, often leaping and somersaulting in front of boats. You can distinguish them from other dolphins by their hooked, black-and-white dorsal fins, as well as their black, gray and white patterned beaks. They grow to about 5 to 8 feet in length and weigh between 300 and 450 pounds, with the males falling at the larger end of the spectrum and the females at the smaller. 

Risso’s Dolphins 

Risso’s dolphins are among the larger dolphin species, often coming in between 650 and 1,100 pounds and about 10 to 12 feet in length. Although they don’t have distinctive beaks, you can easily recognize this type of dolphin by the prevalent white scarring all over their bodies. Risso’s dolphins often scratch themselves on their fellow dolphins’ teeth and also get bitten by the beaks of the squids on which they prey. In many cases, older adults will be nearly completely covered in scars, rendering them almost fully white. 

You’ll find these dolphins all over the world in both tropical and cold waters, though they tend to prefer the cooler, deeper waters far from the shore. However, they do come in closer to the coast on occasion, giving you a greater chance of spotting them. Their groups tend to be smaller than those of other dolphin species, typically including no more than 30 dolphins. They love to slap their flukes and flippers on the surface of the water, and you’ll often see them surfing the wakes behind boats. 

Dolphin Watching in San Diego 

The best way to see dolphins in San Diego is to go out on a cruise. Here at Adventuress Luxury Catamaran, we offer whale watching tours throughout the year, and you’ll often see some or all of the above dolphin varieties during the course of your tour. Our experienced guides know all of the best spots to see these amazing animals so your chances of spotting them are high when you cruise with us. We welcome you to get in touch with us today to learn more about our tours and make your reservation.