Whale Watching in San Diego

The winter months may not seem like a great time to visit the beach, but if your goal is to take pictures of some of the largest mammals on Earth, then you should head to the Pacific Ocean soon!

Yes, San Diego has entered whale watching season, one of the many natural, special gifts our city provides. Locals and tourists flock to the San Diego whale watching tours and cruises mid-December through April in hopes of seeing whales poke their heads out and dive amongst the waves. (If you want to see mom whales with their baby calves, wait until March.)

What kind of whales can you see in San Diego? The most common type of whale seen along the California coast is the Pacific Gray Whale. These whales can live until they’re 70, can grow to be almost 50 feet long (about the size of a school bus) and can weigh up to 40 short tons. If you’re in the right spot at the right time, you can catch these whales on their annual journey, migrating from Alaska to Baja California and then back up to Alaska again.

Other whales that you may see in San Diego include blue whales, finback whales, humpback whales, minke whales and orcas.

There are multiple ways your family can watch these magnificent animals this winter. Here are some of the best spots for whale watching in San Diego:

Cabrillo National Monument

Head over to to this beautiful park to try your luck spotting some migrating whales in the ocean below. The best locations for whale watching here are the Whale Overlook and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, where the whales have been known to pass by. Usually, the best weeks to see the whales at this historic park is when they are heading south in the early winter months.

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Take your family out to Torrey Pines for some fresh air and exercise, then reward them with a picnic and whale watching. The park’s hiking trails are family-friendly and offer breathtaking views of the ocean. Find a good location close to the beach, with a clear view of the ocean.

Whale Watching Kayak Tours

If you are ready for an adventure, then going on a whale watching kayak tour could be an experience of a lifetime, since you’ll have the chance of viewing the magnificent creatures up-close.  Kayak tours are also fun because they may take you to view sea caves, kelp forests, dolphins, leopard sharks and sea lions, as well.

Whale Watching Cruise or Boat Tours

Whale watching on a boat may maximize your chance of seeing whales (and dolphins), especially since some whale watching boat tours can last several hours and some guarantee whale sightings. Although this is a relatively safe way to whale watch, if the water is choppy, it may not be safe for your stomach. But aside from that risk, this is hands-down the easiest way to whale watch, because any whale sightings will be announced.

Tips when whale watching without a tour:

  • Bring binoculars to enjoy the whales up close
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks or even a picnic. Small ice coolers with sandwiches, yogurts, granola and fruits are also a great idea!
  • Bring blankets, beach chairs or something to sit comfortably in for several hours
  • When looking for whales, scan the ocean to look for vertical spouts of water or flukes (a whale tail)

Taking your children to look for whales or even to check out the seals in La Jolla or tide pools in Ocean Beach (OB) will help teach them to love and respect our delicate oceans. For more family-friendly things activities in San Diego, check out Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups’ articles.

Healthy Lifestyles Local Activities Parenting
Senior Wellness Society

Join our Senior Wellness Society for the latest news on Medicare and tips for healthy living in San Diego!

Sign up now ›

Are you looking for specialized medical care in San Diego?

Our directory has more than 850 doctors in San Diego County of various specialties who are available to help you.

Find a doctor
Buscar un médico