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The Best Time for Whale Watching in San Diego 2024

If you are wondering when the San Diego whale-watching season is, the good news is that you can see whales at any time of the year. The warm coastal waters attract different types of whales at various times of the year. So, the best strategy is to decide what kinds of whales you want to see, and then you can determine the best time to see them.

What’s the Best Season to See Whales in San Diego?

It is always whale season in San Diego, but the best season depends on the type of whale you are more interested in. For example, humpback whale sightings are often in a different month than blue whale sightings. 

If you are in San Diego during any month of the year, it is worth scheduling a whale-watching tour, as there is a good chance of seeing some. You also have the opportunity to see other types of marine wildlife, such as dolphins, sea lions, seals, turtles, and seabirds.

animal on the water

Whale Watching in January

If it is gray whales you want to see, January is a great month to spot them, as they begin showing up along Southern California during December. These whales travel long distances during their annual migration, and their round trips may be 10,000 to 14,000 miles. During winter, they migrate to warmer waters in Mexico to give birth, so January is the month to see them off the coast of San Diego. There is also a chance you can see humpback whales this month.  

Whale Watching in February

February is the best time to whale watch in Southern California if you want to see gray whales, as their season is generally mid-December to March. If there is a gray whale in the area, its size makes it hard to miss. They can grow to be 50 feet long and weigh around 60,000 pounds. They have a dorsal hump, and their two blowholes make a spray that looks like a heart. Their tail flukes also look like a heart and are about 10 feet wide. Other whales you may spot include minke and fin. You might even spot an orca, too! 

Whale Watching in March

There is also the possibility of seeing gray whales in March as they migrate back north to colder waters. Watch for their calves; they are often quite playful as they breach. With spring, we start to have an abundance of food, so we typically start to see humpback whales during this time of year. Additional types you may see include fin, orcas, and minke whales.

a man riding a wave on a surfboard in the ocean

Whale Watching in April

As things transition from winter to spring/summer, there is a lot of diversity in the waters off the coast of San Diego. You may still be able to see a gray whale and even a calf, as these incredible creatures are at the tail end of their migration back up north.

This is also the time of year when humpback whales come into full swing. You may be able to see them breach even when standing on the coast, but you will have better luck seeing them out on the water. We typically start to see fin whales and might even see a blue whale. 

Whale Watching in May

Blue whale season in San Diego starts in May. Blue whales are the largest ones, and seeing them up close is impressive. You can identify them from afar because they have a towering spout.

Whale Watching in June

June is an excellent month to spot blue whales. However, you will also see humpback whales. These playful whales put on a good show, as they like to show off by tail slapping, breaching, and fin waving. Ensure you get some good videos if you encounter these whales on your tour.

a person flying through the air while riding a wave in the ocean

Whale Watching in July

July is a great time for whale watching, as the water is alive with various species. Along with blue and humpback whales, you may spot fin whales, minke whales, orcas, and dolphins. If you take a family vacation this month, schedule a tour to soak up the sun and sights on the water.

Whale Watching in August

As summer slows down, this may be your last chance to spot a blue whale. You may also see humpbacks and minke whales.

Whale Watching in September

September is more of a transitional month. Blue whales are most likely gone, but you can still see humpback whales and other sea creatures, such as dolphins, turtles, and sea lions.

a person swimming in a body of water

Whale Watching in October

This is the month the humpback whales usually begin migrating to more southern waters, so you may catch them as they head out. Dolphins are also often seen during October.

Whale Watching in November

You may still be able to spot humpback whales during November, which is significantly closer to the beginning of the month. You may also see a pod of orcas.

Whale Watching in December

If you want to see gray whales, the best time to whale watch in southern California begins in December. This is the month that they start their migration down from colder waters. Keep your eye on the horizon, look for water spouts, and enjoy their beautiful flukes up close on a boat. Celebrate the holidays by booking a whale-watching tour and enjoy being on the water with friends and family.

animal on the water

What to Expect on Your Whale Watching Tour

No matter what month you choose to take a whale-watching tour, you will not be disappointed. Preparation will help you make the most of your tour. 

To have the best experience, make sure you follow these tips:

  • Wear layers, as it is cooler on the water than on land
  • Apply sunscreen and bring along sunglasses
  • Make sure you bring your camera and binoculars if you want to see whales closer up
  • Feel free to bring your four-legged friend, as dogs are allowed

Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary on your journey, but you can also bring your food and drinks. Just keep in mind that glass and red wine are not allowed.

Now that you are prepared, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy whale watching!

Come See Whales With Us!

If you are ready to spot whales off the coast of Southern California, Next Level Sailing in San Diego is the trip to sign up for. It is about a four-hour tour, which gives you many opportunities to see various sea life.

You may spot some whales closer to the shore, while others are found in deeper waters. Your captain will discuss the various whales you may see and discuss specific characteristics to look for. You also have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.