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What is the Best Time of Day to Go Whale Watching?

a whale jumping out of the water

If you love the ocean, you know it’s a magical place full of magnificent and mysterious creatures. You won’t find large marine animals such as whales in zoos or aquariums, so if witnessing these majestic creatures in the wild is on your bucket list, you’ll have to go to the sea. A whale-watching tour is the best way to get close to these stunning animals. Learn more about the best time of day for whale watching and which whales you can expect to see on your next day trip.

What is a Whale Watching Tour?

Whale-watching tours are dedicated day trips that take you on the ocean to find and witness whales in their natural habitat. You will typically embark on a small to medium-sized boat or yacht and travel from the marina into open water. Whale-watching yachts are safe and feature comfortable seats, handrails, and toilets. Some tours even serve delicious meals onboard.

Your whale-watching tour will last five to six hours, including getting on and off the vessel. Professional whale-watching guides will inform you what to look for and point out when whales are near. Consider bringing binoculars to get a closer look at the animals from a distance.

If you’re worried that getting seasick will impact your day, remember that less than one percent of people become ill onboard whale-watching vessels. These vessels are specially designed to minimize the movement of the ocean and make the trip pleasant. You can always take a half dose of Dramamine the night before and a full dose before your trip just to be safe.

animal on the water

Whales You Can See in San Diego

Warm coastal waters often have high populations of whales, which is why whale watching in San Diego attracts so many marine animal enthusiasts. Unlike other cities with specific whale-watching seasons, you can see whales in San Diego all year round.

In the fall, you may come across humpback whales and fin whales. As winter cools off the waters near San Diego, you may encounter gray whales as they travel past the coast on their migration route. When the spring takes hold, more gray whales pass by, especially females, along with humpbacks, fin whales, and the occasional blue whale. Other marine mammals include dolphins, orcas, pilot whales, and sea lions.

For the best chance of spotting a blue whale off the coast of San Diego, book a summer whale-watching tour between late May and early June. Blue whales congregate in the warm waters near San Diego to feed on krill in the hot months, making you more likely to see one in the summer.

a whale jumping out of the water

What Time of the Day Are Whales Most Active?

Whales are active throughout the day, so whale-watching tours keep you on the water for three to four hours. Whales don’t care if it’s sunny or cloudy; they come up to the surface to breathe throughout the day. Sometimes we see whales migrating, and sometimes we see them feeding. No matter what, whales must breathe air like humans, so we are lucky to see them at the surface throughout the day. 

Remember that whales are wild animals and don’t stick to regular schedules. You can check whale watching reports to find out if there have been recent spottings of active animals around the time you plan to go whale watching. Trust that your whale-watching guides know what to look for to find visible whale activity, and you will spot one of these incredible animals before your journey ends.

San Diego is an incredible and vibrant city perfect for families, couples, and solo travelers. Take advantage of the opportunity to book a once-in-a-lifetime whale-watching trip when you’re in the city.