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Your Complete Guide To Humpback Whale Season in San Diego

a whale jumping out of the water

Whales have entranced people for thousands of years. Their enormous size and unexpected grace make them a fantastic sight in the wild. Humpback whales are easy to identify from onboard a whale-watching boat, and their migration patterns bring them along the California coast from May to November. Here’s your guide to humpback whale season in San Diego to help you plan your next whale-watching trip.

Interesting Facts About Humpback Whales

While you may have seen an image or two of a humpback whale, there are a lot of interesting facts about these fascinating marine mammals. Humpback whales have been known to swim more than 5,000 miles during their migration trips. Scientists have documented some animals swimming for nine weeks without stopping.

Humpback whales are part of the baleen family and can grow over 50 feet long. They feed by straining seawater through their baleen plates to scoop up krill and small fish.

There are distinct populations of humpback whales living in different parts of the world, and these groups don’t interbreed. During the 19th century, whalers decimated humpback whale populations, with some groups losing up to 95% of their members. After the 1980s, when whaling was banned worldwide, humpback whale populations started to rebound, and now only four groups of humpbacks require protection as endangered species.

Humpback Whale Migration in San Diego

If you live in southern California and have always wanted to see a humpback whale in San Diego style, you can accomplish your dream during humpback migration season. Every year, humpback whales travel from warm, sub-tropical waters where they breed to cooler waters where they feed. San Diego falls along the humpback whale migration route as the animals pause to enjoy the krill-filled waters off the California coast.

animal on the water

Humpback Whale Feeding Sightings

In the late spring and early summer, the ocean off the coast of San Diego is full of food that baleen whales love: krill. Whale-feeding sightings are common in these months as the animals swim closer to the water’s surface where the krill are.

When humpback whales feed, you may see them lunge up and out of the water as they gulp up immense amounts of krill. Other behaviors include spouting, tail and flipper slapping, diving, and breaching.

Humpback whales and blue whales both feed on krill. When the San Diego coast has a good krill season, it’s a sign that you might also see a blue whale on your boat tour.

Best Time & Places To See Humpback Whales

The best time to see humpback whales in San Diego is early summer and fall. If you go whale watching at other times of the year, you may see different whale species, but spotting a humpback may be difficult when they aren’t migrating past the coast. 

There’s no better place to see a humpback whale than from the deck of a whale-watching vessel. While you can use binoculars to spot whales spouting from the shore, whale-watching boats get you closer to the action.

Tips & Guidelines for Your Next Whale Watching Trip

Here are some things to remember for your next whale-watching trip:

  • Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and protective clothing
  • Bring layers in case of a change in the weather
  • Choose comfortable and sturdy shoes for the day
  • Check the whale-watching forecast to get a sense of what you’ll see

Whale-watching trips typically last four hours. Remember to arrive early to board the vessel.

With its warm climate and long coastline, San Diego is one of the best places in the world to see whales. Book a whale-watching trip today and prepare for a lifetime experience.