The Pacific Ocean is home to some magnificent creatures, but none are probably as impressive as the majestic whale. The coast of Southern California offers some of the best opportunities to witness these incredible creatures first hand, if you know where and when to look.
Guided Coastal Tours
Whale watching tours are the best way to get out on the water and spot whales, as well as some other coastal inhabitants, like dolphins. Excellent guided excursions can be found at ports in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange County and San Diego, so you’re guaranteed a great experience no matter where you are in the LA area.
Here are some of the most well-reviewed tour companies in Southern California:
Newport Landing Whale Watching – Newport Beach
Davey’s Locker Whale Watching – Newport Beach
Harbor Breeze Cruises – Long Beach
Capt. Dave’s – Dana Point
Channel Islands Whale Watching – Oxnard
L.A. Waterfront Cruises – San Pedro
Whale Watching Tips For An Amazing Adventure
Check out these five tips to enhance your whale watching experience and ensure it’s a memory your family will never forget.
1. Choose the right season.
Whales are creatures of habits, and they follow fixed migration patterns, so keep in mind the season to get a glimpse of your preferred whale. For example, Gray Whales migrate towards the warmer waters off the Southern California coast during the winter months, from November up until April. Their numbers are impressive—an estimated 20,000 each season, which guarantees plenty of encounters. However, Blue Whales—the world’s largest animals—can be seen in California waters from May to September.
2. Dress for the occasion.
Regardless of the season you choose to engage in your whale watching adventures, make sure your family dresses for the excursion. Even if you think the weather is too warm for winter-appropriate clothes, temperatures are always lower on the ocean. The strong breezes often add a wind chill factor as well. Layer up and pack warm hats, mittens, and extra socks for you and your family.
photo: Tatiana Twinslol via Pexels
3. Protect yourself from the sun.
Just like a sunny winter day at the beach calls for sunscreen, a whale watching tour out on the ocean requires the same amount of sun protection. Water reflects sunlight, and you’ll get a more significant impact while out whale watching. Prepare for the occasion with plenty of sunscreen and high-quality sunglasses for your family. A sun hat is another good way to block the sun, but make sure it has a chin strap so it doesn’t fly away.
4. Bring entertainment for the kids.
Whale watching is an excellent way to make memories for you and your family. However, younger kids may not have the patience required to enjoy a day out in the sea, making a fun family trip go south quickly. Pack along plenty of screen-free entertainment that can keep them distracted until it’s time to witness the whales. A game of eye-spy is always easy on the go. Another fun idea, especially for older kids, is to bring along a sketch pad and have them draw what they see on the ocean.
photo: Davide Cantelli via Unsplash
5. Keep your expectations realistic.
You did your research regarding the seasons and ideal locations and also prepared carefully for the occasion. Everything is perfect and ready for the experience of a lifetime, but keep in mind that you can control everything—except the whales themselves.
Southern California may be a haven for whale watching, but whales do as they see fit. Even if you do everything right, you may have to wait hours to see a whale—or you may not see one at all. That’s part of the thrill of the experience and what makes whale watching exciting and rewarding. Leading up to your tour, talk about what you might see —dolphins will often make an appearance and the possibility that whales might not make an appearance.
It is also essential to remember that whales come out fast and without warning. You may not have time for an Insta-perfect photo, and that’s okay—it’s all about living that small moment together, after all.
Have you taken your family on a whale-watching expedition? Share your favorite tour companies with us in our Local Anchor Facebook community.