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What To Bring: Your Summer 2023 San Diego Whale Watching Blue Whale Sighting Guide

a group of people on a boat in the water

San Diego, California, is one of the best places to go whale watching. You can see many whale species, such as humpback, blue, gray, fin, Bryde’s, and killer whales. Here in San Diego, we are incredibly lucky to be so close to exceptionally deep water. Just 10 miles off the coast, the depth drops to 1,000 meters or 3,280 feet. With this deep water, abundant nutrients give rise to phytoplankton blooms and subsequent krill swarms. Endangered blue whales have been returning to our San Diego coast year after year to feed on these large krill swarms. A visit to Southern California is not complete without a whale excursion to see the largest animal on the planet. Therefore, here is a blue whale guide.

Items To Bring

You want your adventure to be as comfortable as possible. Therefore, this is what to pack for a whale-watching trip. First, pack sunscreen and seasickness patches.

Wear comfortable shoes. The water is up to 15 degrees colder than on land, so layer your clothing, e.g., t-shirt, sweatshirt, and jacket. Include a rain jacket or poncho for water sprays or drizzling rain. Remember your polarized sunglasses, and consider a hat with a wide brim to protect your face, but make sure it stays secure on your head and cannot blow into the ocean. Consider bringing or wearing pants.

Most charter services offer or allow you to bring snacks and beverages, especially water. However, contact the company before you leave to see if you can bring alcohol and what types of containers it prefers. Avoid foods that need plates and silverware. Remember your favorite hand sanitizer.

Bring a camera or smartphone, and take lots of photos of the marine life you see on your whale-watching tour. Don’t forget an extra memory card and battery. Put your phone on airplane mode to save battery and don’t forget to bring a charger. Bring a field guide, notebook, and binoculars as well. Include a little cash if you want to purchase anything on the boat. Store your stuff in a waterproof bag.

Items To Leave Behind

Avoid glass because you can drop and break it, causing dangers on the boat and sea life if it falls into the water. Also, avoid single-use plastics. Instead, choose reusable cups, bottles, etc. Also, avoid liquids that stain like red wine. 

a fish swimming under water

Preparing To See Blue Whales

Any time of day is a great time to see whales. They are feeding throughout the day in our San Diego waters. 

Choose the Right Time of Year

Fortunately, whale watching is a year-round activity in San Diego. However, some species only show up seasonally. For example, blue whales are most often seen in the area during spring because they come to the Southern California coast to feed. Historically, peak months to see these animals have been mid-May to early June. This year, we have been seeing an extremely high density of blue whales. We expect to see them feed throughout the summer this year. There has been a lot of diversity this year as well. We have had weeks where we see fin whales, humpback whales, and blue whales all in the same week. Sometimes, we see multiple species in the same day. We are exceptionally excited to see what we find during the rest of the summer. If you’re planning a trip in the winter, the gray whale visits the area from December through April as they migrate back and forth between Baja, California, and Alaska.

In addition, you can see Risso and Pacific white-sided dolphins in the winter, while long- and short-beaked dolphins are available throughout the year. Therefore, if you want to see specific whale species, check when they are typically in the area.


Choose the Right Touring Company

You can see whales from land or through kayak adventures, but you can also join a whale-watching tour with a local company. However, choose a company that is well-established in the area and has experienced boat captains. They should have appropriate safety measures and a solid safety record. Find a company with a good reputation.

Choose the business that cares about protecting these majestic giants through conservation efforts and following the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration guidelines, such as remaining at least 100 yards from the whales in the area. They should also direct the passengers to avoid loud noises. The boat should not move aggressively, such as preventing head-on or from-behind approaches.

Also, check out the boat size, views, and facilities. Ask about boat maintenance and shelters from the sun or weather. Find out how many people will accompany you on tour and how much deck space is available. Ask about their success rate and guarantees.

Although you may be most interested in blue whales, whale-watching tours allow you to see many types of whales yearly. Follow these guidelines to prepare yourself and your family for these excursions.

Next Level Sailing has been offering whale-watching trips for 18 years. They are the most experienced at finding whales in San Diego. They work with NOAA, ACS, and Cascadia Research to help monitor the population of blue whales. They also work directly with the Navy to prevent ship strikes. Consider sailing aboard Next Level Sailing’s Yacht America during your upcoming San Diego adventure!