Where to Go Whale Watching in San Diego

Where to Go Whale Watching in San Diego

San Diego is known for its various cultural, holiday, and national events. But if you haven't gone whale-watching here, you're missing out!

Every year between December and April, hundreds of thousands of gray whales migrate south for the winter to the warmer waters of Baja, California where the females give birth to their young. Then in the summer, the gray whales migrate back north when the young have gained enough strength to make the journey to the colder North Pacific waters.

A little information on whales might give a clue as to why whale watching is such a fascination for so many. Gray whales are known to be the creatures that migrate the farthest distance of any other creature on earth, traveling thousands of miles every year and coming down to California all the way from the Alaska region. Blue whales are the largest creatures on earth, with the fin whales close behind.

The adrenaline rush just may be the secret sauce that draws other types of crowds. After all, whale watching is anything but boring. Seeing a mammoth whale suddenly bobbing up from underneath the water is sure to make your heart skip a beat, especially when they surface just yards from your boat!

If whale watching is your most recent obssession, San Diego is a great place to view these majestic creatures. With seventy miles of exposed coastline directly in the path of the whale's migration route, you won't find many places more suited to this activity than San Diego.

Although there are several land vantage points you may want to check out, your surest bet is to get out in the ocean with them. Because of modern laws preventing the exploitation of the whales, the number of whales has increased in recent years, although land sightings have tended to actually decrease. If you get motion sickness, however, the land overlooks might be your place, especially with a good pair of binoculars in hand.

This article will focus primarily on ocean viewing options with a few exceptions for land viewing.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps with Flagship Cruises and Events

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is a land location where you might be able to spot a few whales out at sea. The Aquarium has an observation area stationed well above the ocean to give you a birds-eye view and some observation binoculars that you can use to try to help locate gray whales out at sea. They also have a very interesting and enjoyable indoor Aquarium you may want to check out as well.

However, if you are really wanting to get closer to the whales, the naturalists at Birch Aquarium have another option to take you there through their guided tours given via their partner Flagship Cruises and Events.

On the Flagship Cruises tour, you will be able to view gray whales on their way south if you see them during the colder months. The cruise has an educational focus and you will learn a ton about the gray whale (and just how many tons they weigh!) and will be able to ask specialists questions you may have about these marvelous sea creatures.

Flagship Cruises also offers an adventurous High Speed Boat Tour on their boat called the Patriot. This tour enables you to view the whales in a shorter amount of time because of the Patriot's quicker speed. But be prepared- you are likely to get wet!

Although you can see the whales from December through April, for the best possible chance to see them, go in December or January. This is when the majority of whales are passing by San Diego. And don't worry, Flagship guarantees their tours, so if you don't spot a whale you can go again for free!

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, CA 92037

Flagship Cruises and Events
990 N Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101, b/t Broadway & G St
Phone: 619-234-4111
Whale Watching Tour Website: www.flagshipsd.com

Dates and Hours for whale-watching tours: December 19th-April 17th, 9:30am-1:15pm and 1:30pm-5pm
Patriot Jet Boat Tour is from 11:30am-1:00pm

San Diego Whale Watch

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“Humpback Whale in San Diego, CA -”

This company was founded by two fishermen who realized their passion for whales at a young age and saved their money so they could someday begin what is today known as San Diego Whale Watch. To this day, they find fulfillment in guiding tour groups and sharing with others their great knowledge of whales and other marine life.

Although some of the whale watching places around San Diego are only open for business and tours for part of the year, San Diego Whale Watch gives whale watching tours year round. They also guarantee whale sightings and promise that if you don't see a whale or a dolphin, you get to ride again for free in hopes of seeing a whale the next time.

The ride is aboard their boat, the Privateer, which seats approximately 149 passengers and has plenty of roomy seating. This is especially true on weekdays when they book smaller groups. The boat is said to give one of the smoothest rides around so you can comfortably enjoy the trip. The sightings of whales are frequent and documented daily on their website, telling which kind of whales they were able to see that day and other trip highlights as well as mentions of marine-life and avian finds.

Make sure to bring extra clothing layers, since the temperatures on the water tend to be cooler than those on land. Also, arrive 45 minutes before your tour time to ensure a timely departure for all.

San Diego Whale Watch
1717 Quivira Rd
San Diego, CA, 92109
Phone: (619) 839-0128
Website: http://www.sdwhalewatch.com/
Hours: Tours run daily from 10am-1pm for morning tours and 1:30pm-4:30pm for afternoon tours.

These long-time best friends spent most of their time on the water as avid fisherman. As young boys, they spent their summers fishing and marveled at dolphins and whales right off of our beautiful coast.

Source: www.sdwhalewatch.com

Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument is one of the places where you might get lucky enough to view some whales from land. If you go to Whale Overlook located at Cabrillo National Monument in January or February, you have the greatest chance of spotting a gray whale or two. But make sure to bring your own binoculars since whales tend to stay further out into the ocean. Whale Overlook is just a short walk from the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, and you'll find many other things to do and see at this landmark.

If you are one of those people who adores fabulous sunsets, make sure to be there just as the sun is setting for some of the most breathtakingly gorgeous scenery and opportunities to take amazing photos as well!

Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr.
San Diego, CA 92106
Phone: (619) 557-5450
Website: http://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

Hornblower Cruises and Events

With climate-controlled indoor areas for those who want to see live whales but don't want to brave the elements, Hornblower Cruises and Events is the perfect company to tour with. Indoors, you will find a snack bar and other amenities on board so that you have everything you require to feel comfortable. You can also pick up a souvenir right on the boat to bring that special person that wasn't able to come along.

Hornblower Cruises will take your picture before the yacht sets sail, and you can buy the photo as a momento after the experience. Cruises start in December just as the bulk of the whales are starting to be seen. You will get fabulous views of the ocean with the yacht's multi-story decks. The boats height gives passengers a great vantage point for scoping out those telltale spouts of a great whale breaching nearby.

This cruise is also educational and professionally narrated by the ship's captain, as well as from naturalists and experts from the nearby museums, so this should be a great educational experience for you and your group.

They also offer some great combo packages so you can get a great value as well. You have the option to select from packages which include admission to places such as the San Diego Maritime Museum, the USS Midway Museum, or the San Diego Museum of Natural History.

You won't be sorry you chose to tour with Hornblower Cruises!

Hornblower Cruises and Events
970 N Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 686-8715
Website: www.hornblower.com
Hours: 9:30am-1pm

Adventure R.I.B. Rides

Want a whale-watching adventure that is a little more personal? Then Adventure R.I.B. Rides is your place! R.I.B. stands for "Rigid Inflatable Boat" and this boat is truly a speed demon. It was even formerly used by Navy Seals on attack missions because of its light weight and astounding speed. Because it is so light and is only big enough to fit 6-8 people, the ride out to the whales is much quicker, yet feels more adventurous and the tour much more personal. They also will provide you with a type of wetsuit to keep you dry, warm and comfortable on your ocean adventure so you can sit back and enjoy!

Make sure to keep your eyes open and ready for the amazing sights you'll see! Not only are you likely to see whales, such as the fin whale, the blue whale, gray whales, and even orcas, but you will also likely see dolphin pods, some of which can number a thousand or more. These playful creatures will often ride in the wake of the boat along with you and you will be able to see them hopping from the water or swimming below the surface.

The other great thing about Adventure R.I.B. rides it that you are much less likely to get seasick on this tour then on one of the bigger boats. The logic behind this is that the bigger boats tend to roll and rock back and forth somewhat with their slower speeds. With the R.I.B., the speed is fast and the boat is relatively light, so the boat tends to glide on top of the water with a lot less rolling.

It's also a good idea to bring your camera. After all, you might just spot the largest creature in the world. If you have your camera to capture the moment, you'll have bragging rights for life!

Adventure R.I.B. Rides
1380 Harbor Island Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 808-2822
Website: http://www.adventureribrides.com/
Email: adventurerubrides@gmail.com
Hours: Tours given daily from 9am-12pm, and at 1pm-4pm.

Give these places a try, but be warned! You might just find the thrill of whale watching to be highly addictive. (But make sure to also participate with a pair of great binoculars, and a camera!)

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