The beginning of the year is the best time to whale watch in San Diego as many species of whale migrate through the region between December and April. If you have never had the chance to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, now is the time to start planning your visit to San Diego. Although it is still winter, the weather in San Diego tends to be relatively mild so you can enjoy whale watching without worrying about freezing your tail off while you do it.
Why This Season Is the Best Time to Whale Watch in San Diego
Aside from the temperate weather, San Diego offers some of the best whale watching in all of Southern California. Migrating gray whales are the most common species you’ll see in the region during the early portion of the year, though you may also spot fin, humpback and Minke whales. These other species visit San Diego throughout the year so there is no need to worry if you miss the best time to whale watch in San Diego. You’ll still have plenty of opportunities to see these large sea-dwelling mammals all year round, though their numbers may not be as high.
When the weather begins to turn cold, gray whales begin their migration to the south to their birthing grounds along Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, passing by San Diego on the course of their journey. Then, when the temperatures start to rise again in the spring, the whales head back north, passing through San Diego once again. If you visit during the latter part of the whale watching season, you may even be lucky enough to spot mother whales with their newborn calves, having given birth in warmer waters to the south.
Although the gray whales are migrating through the area, many of them choose to spend extra time here rather than just passing through. This is because there is a large kelp forest just off the coast of San Diego. This kelp forest attracts the whales, encouraging them to spend more time here in the local waters. For whale watchers, this is great news as the more whales there are in the area, the greater your chances of spotting one or more.
Whale Watching from the San Diego Coastline
There are many prime viewing spots along San Diego’s shores so you’ll have a chance to see the whales without ever stepping foot off dry land. This is a great option for those who are reluctant to go out on a boat due to seasickness, fear, cost or other concerns.
If you plan to view the whales from the shore, it’s best to go between December and February. During this period of the migration, the whales come much closer to the shore than they do later in the season. Even if you bring binoculars, the whales will likely be too far away to see from the coast in March and April when they head back up north.
You’ll find plenty of great whale watching spots in the San Diego area, including:
- Scripps Park above La Jolla Cove
- Torrey Pines State Reserve
- Birch Aquarium
- The heights around Whale Overlook
- Old Point Loma Lighthouse at the Cabrillo National Monument
There may be some other spots in the region where you can find good views of the whale migration but these are some of the most popular.
Whale Watching Cruises Out of San Diego Bay
Of course, the best way to truly get up close and personal with the whales is to go out on a whale watching cruise. There are many companies that operate out of San Diego’s harbor offering whale watching tours. In fact, many of them even guarantee that you will see whales or there is no charge for your excursion. Not all companies offer this type of guarantee so be sure to do your research in advance.
Some tours are more reputable than others so don’t just look for the most affordable price. Whale watching tours that are heavily discounted are likely not of the highest quality. If they have to reduce their prices significantly in order to attract customers, it could be a sign that the experience is sub-par. Aim to strike a balance between quality and affordability to give yourself the best chance of having a memorable experience.
Depending on the cruise you select, you may also have the option of adding on additional amenities. Some cruise companies offer catering and bar service for groups or you could bring along a DJ to make the event feel more like a party. You could even try your hand at various water activities, like tubing, stand-up paddling, snorkeling and more. Keep in mind, though, the water is quite cold in San Diego throughout the year. You may wish to rent a wetsuit if you plan on going in the water.
Book Your Whale Watching Cruise with Adventuress Luxury Catamaran
We are proud to offer exciting whale watching tours out of the San Diego Harbor and we would love to take you out to see the whales. Our experienced tour guides know all of the best spots to watch from so it’s incredibly likely that you’ll have a successful whale watching adventure on our luxurious catamaran. We operate our cruises throughout the year, though you may not see as many whales if you visit outside of the migration season.
Because December through April is the best time for whale watching in San Diego, our tours tend to book out well in advance. It’s a good idea to get in touch with us as soon as you are ready to plan your excursion. We’ll be happy to set you up with an appointment for a whale watching tour on our beautiful, private catamaran. We want you to have the chance to see these incredible creatures in the wild. Reach out to us to book your tour before our schedule is all filled up for the season!