Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog

Whale Season In San Diego: When, Where, and How to See These Friendly Giants

a whale jumping out of the water

San Diego is one of the best places for vacations in the United States. The city has everything, from professional sports, museums, and history to a world-renowned zoo, the ocean, and temperate weather throughout the year. One of the best things about San Diego is watching the friendly giants known as whales. Here’s what to know about whale-watching in this SoCal metropolis.

What Is The Best Month To See Whales In San Diego?

You can find many types of whales off San Diego’s coast throughout the year. Humpbacks and minke whales are spotted in any season. If you want to see blue whales, the best time for an ocean tour is from May to August. Most people would say the best whale watching season is mid-December to mid-March when the gray whales migrate from Alaska to Mexico and back. Any month is an excellent month to go to the ocean to see some whales. You’ll see different animals each time you go out, even if your tours are a few days apart.

What Whales Can You See In San Diego?

There are about 75 whale species in the world. In San Diego, the most common whales that are seen are:

  1. California gray whales – growing up to 49 feet long and weighing around 60,000 pounds, about 20,000 of these whales migrate through the San Diego region yearly
  2. Blue whales – are considered the largest animal on the planet, weighing up to 300,000 pounds, but they only eat krill, one of the smallest animals on the planet
  3. Orcas, or killer whales – prefer the cooler temperatures in Alaska, so seeing one in SD is rare, but they have been spotted. These whales are much smaller than other types, weighing only 6 tons or less
  4. Finback whales – finbacks are the fastest whales and are the most hunted of all whale species, which has led to them being endangered
  5. Humpback whales – one of the most iconic species of whales, humpbacks are renowned for their songs

a body of water

What Time Of Day Should You Go Whale Watching?

Whales are seen at any time of the day as they come up to the surface to breathe. The time of day does not matter. It is typically less windy in the morning, and then the wind picks up in the afternoon. The water is super glassy in the morning, so the pictures are stunning. Sailing is better in the afternoon with more wind. Tours with good operators will know where to spot whales and other sea life to give you the best chance to see whales, regardless of the time you’re in the ocean.

How Long Is a Whale Watching Tour?

A good whale-watching tour lasts around four hours. This gives you plenty of time to acclimate to the water and learn how to sight whales and dolphins. You may want to pack a picnic lunch and lots of drinks to ensure you’re comfortable while enjoying the ocean. Let your contacts know you’ll be out of touch until you’re back on land. Even if you get a signal, you’ll be too busy watching for those friendly giants to answer messages.

a group of people riding on the back of a boat in the water

How To Prepare For Your Tour

Check with the tour for specific rules, but here are some general things to know. You’ll want to wear comfortable closed-toe shoes that can get wet. Dress in layers. Even though afternoon temperatures are pleasant, being on the ocean can be cooler in the morning. You’ll want to bring your sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat and a camera. Binoculars aren’t a necessity, but they can be helpful. Read through the tour rules before you check in to know their policies. You probably won’t be able to smoke or vape on your whale-watching tour. Know the weather cancellation policy. Expect to have a good time when you’re out on the ocean. Book your whale-watching tour now.