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Best Time to Whale Watch in Southern California

Humpback whale approaches guests on Capt. Dave's whale watching catamaran

One of the most commonly asked questions we receive every day, all year long is “when is the best time to whale watch in Southern California?”  Lucky for us and the wonderful passengers we meet daily on every trip, our stunning world-class stretch of water is home to resident pods of whales and dolphins all year round making Dana Point, California the best place to go whale watching. As the Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World® and the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas, Dana Point, California is home to a variety of marine species of whales, dolphins, turtles, sharks, and sea lions too. This spectacular show of sea life makes any day of the year the best time to go whale watching in Southern California! Need to see it to believe it? Check out our up-to-date sightings log. You’ll be amazed by the unbelievable and amazing wildlife that we are seeing out there, every single day, all year round!

Many people are not aware that the best time to whale watch in Southern California also means seeing dolphins! Dolphins are members of the whale species too. Toothed whales, or scientifically known as Odontocetes, are whales of all sizes with conical or cone-like shaped teeth. Some of the Odontecetes whales we see are not one but two different species of common dolphins known as long-beaked and short-beaked common dolphins. These gorgeous acrobatic cetaceans are anything but common when it comes to their coloring and they’re often thought of as the most elaborately colored dolphins. We also see both offshore and coastal ecotypes of bottlenose dolphins who are much larger than common dolphins and are happy to show off their high flying acrobatics, stunning passengers with aerial flights of nearly 20 feet into the air! Risso’s dolphins, while often shy and timider, also grace us with their presence all year through! Come winter, we excitedly search the seas for pacific white-sided dolphins with their blunt beaks and artistic shades of charcoal and white. And that is not all! We have baleen whales too! The best time to whale watch in Southern California provides the opportunity to bear witness to the smallest whales called minke whales or Balaenoptera acutorostrata, to the nearly extinct Bryde’s (pronounced broo-tus) whales or scientifically Balaenoptera brydei, or the largest two in the great whale group known as fin whales or Balaenoptera physalus and blue whales or Balaenoptera musculusDana Point whale watching means incredible marine life sightings all year through. Now stats like this are what makes whale watching a worthwhile way to spend your time on vacation, staycation, or just a day of fun in the sun, making every day the best time to go whale watching in Southern California!

The best month for whale watching depends on the different species visiting our waters during different months throughout the year. When autumn months are upon us, we anxiously await the first sighting of gray whales or Eschrichtius robustus of the family Eschrichtiidae. Some years, as early as the cooler November months, we begin to see gray whales wind their way south down the Pacific Coast each year. What makes this season the best time to whale watch in Southern California is sighting these barnacle-covered brown beauties up close and personal! Hugging our Southern California coastlines as they head down to the lagoons of Mexico is more than just an amazing sighting. Being able to possibly catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures, who once feared man, is a time to connect with these animals and experience firsthand why the best time to go whale watching in Southern California is by coming to Dana Point. Gray whales, who hold the title of the longest migrations of the entire baleen whale species also hold the record for the longest mammalian migrations, period! Traveling over 5,000 miles each direction, with some whales topping over twelve thousand miles roundtrip! No wonder they need all the rest and relaxation they can get in the lagoons of Baja.

Just as the bare limbs on the trees lining the shore begin to show new beginnings of life, the later spring months leading well into early summer is another opportunity to enjoy the best time to whale watch in Southern California. The spring and summer seasons bring about the presence of the magnificent and giant blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), off the Southern California coast just outside of our very own Dana Point Harbor. Extending their impressive bodies over 85 feet long, dwarfing all of our vessels, reminding all of us about the impactful sight these animals can have on our lives. The great blue whale is more than just a miraculous sight to see! Having the reputation of being the largest whale is one thing but having the accolades of being the largest animal to have EVER roamed planet earth is certainly worth showing off! Each year we are thrilled to see their reappearance and share our knowledge and love of these precious creatures with passengers and repeat passengers alike. Sighting a blue whale is one of the best times to whale watch in Southern California and something most people on the earth never get to do. Only 1% of all people on Earth will ever see a blue whale – so join us today! No matter how many times you are lucky enough to capture a glimpse of these awe-striking beauties, you will be reminded that the best time to go whale watching in Southern California, is a day where blue whales could be on your sightseeing list!

Unlike nearly all other places on earth, the waters of Orange County are filled with an abundant, plentiful, and reliable food source for a multitude of species of cetaceans and other marine life. Healthy krill populations, schools of anchovies, herring, mackerel, squid, and more are all major food sources for our cetaceans. The best time to whale watch in Southern California means lots of food is in the area and the opportunity to sight more than one species is likely. On any given day you could spot a pod of bottlenose dolphins on your way out to see an even larger pod of common dolphins. These same common dolphins would also be associated with traveling fin whales or even sea lions who are gobbling up some of the same food sources. While our large rorqual baleen whales typically feed on smaller invertebrates like krill, many of our dolphin populations forage for the same small schooling fish, giving us the opportunity to see more than one species of whale in one day and even on one trip!

Our professional and highly regarded captains and crew always make sure the best time to whale watch in Southern California means choosing us to experience the ocean with. Our knowledgeable and experienced team not only brings their seaworthy experience and extensive knowledge of marine life and geological landmarks, but also shares their intense passion for the sea and the life within it alongside you. If you are lucky, you may just get to hear a few ‘whaley’ bad jokes along the way too! But honestly, the best month for whale watching is the month you decide to get out there and just go for it.

So what are you waiting for? The best time to whale watch in Southern California is right now! Don’t wait any longer and book your Dana Point whale watching trip today!

We can’t wait to see you soon!

Until Next Time, 

Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari

Gift an unforgettable dolphin and whale watching experience! With year-round whales, dolphins, sea lions, sharks, and more, any time is a great time for your recipient to enjoy their gift.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods…” – Dr. Thomas Gilovich