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Is December Good For Whale Watching In San Diego?

During the winter months, many people want to travel to warmer climates. San Diego, California, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the winter, not just because of the warmer temperatures. December is the beginning of one of the most significant natural events in the world, and San Diego offers prime viewing.

From December through April, the largest mammal migration occurs, spanning 10,000 miles from Alaska to Baja and back. Tour guides can almost guarantee sightings during the winter months of an otherwise elusive species: whales.

Why Is December a Good Month for Whale Watching?

Whale watching season begins in mid-December in San Diego because it is when the largest whale migration occurs. Over 20,000 whales migrate south each fall and winter to mate and reproduce, giving birth in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

From late winter to early spring, the animals make the long swim back up the coastline in search of the richer feeding grounds of the Arctic. Therefore, tourists have a specific window to see the whales, from mid-December to April, as they travel along the California coast.

What Whales Migrate in December?

While tourists can see humpback whales and other species in the months leading up to December, the winter month is the peak viewing season for gray whales. The animal is a mottled gray color and usually has barnacles and white lice all over its body.

The mammal can reach lengths up to 39 feet and weigh up to 60,000 pounds on average. Females are often larger than males. The largest whales of the species can weigh nearly 90,000 pounds and grow to lengths of 49 feet.

animal on the water

What To Bring on Your December Whale Watch Trip

Even though it is December, tourists need to remember they are traveling to California. Guests on whale tours will want to bring a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Also, because the temperature can get pretty chilly out at sea, most tour guides recommend bringing a jacket or pullover sweatshirt. Other items to bring on a whale-watching vessel include:

  • Binoculars
  • Camera (extra batteries)
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Rain poncho

Weather During December Whale Watching Trip

December in San Diego is lovely. Most days are around 66° F. Unfortunately, the city also experiences an average of four to six days of rain per week.

Tourists must remember that the temperature will be colder out on the water. Because the temperature can fluctuate from land to sea, travelers should come prepared for their whale watching tour, packing jackets or hoodies and wearing long pants and long sleeves.

Other Marine Life To Keep an Eye Out For

While most people are eager to see a whale on their whale watching tour, whales are not the only marine life tourists will get a chance to see. The waters around San Diego are bursting with a thriving marine ecosystem.

Besides the opportunity to see gray, humpback, and killer whales, guests aboard a whale tour boat may also see bottlenose and common dolphins, seals, sea lions, or sharks. For fortunate visitors, sea turtles may make an appearance, but this experience is rare.

December is among the best months for whale watching in San Diego. The enormous gray whale migration provides the best opportunity to see a whale in its natural habitat, and it occurs from mid-December to April every year.

While December is an excellent time to watch for whales, the marine life around San Diego is active year-round, meaning there is no reason to wait for the winter for a unique experience. Contact a local tour guide to learn more about whale watching tours, times, and prices.