Dana Point: Dolphin & Whale Capital of the World®

With a variety of year-round whales, more dolphins per square mile than anywhere in the world, pristine coastline, calm seas, the first and longest running annual Festival of Whales and a captivating harbor minutes from the open ocean, Dana Point, California, is the official Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World®.

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Dana Point Has More Dolphins Than Anywhere Else

With over 450,000 dolphins (and that’s just one one of several species), Dana Point, California, has the greatest density of dolphins per square mile of anywhere else in the world.

The “dolphin stampede”. You might have seen it on the news, YouTube, or Instagram. You might have even heard they were mermaids! Dana Point made famous the dolphin stampede, and remains the best place to witness first hand the breathtaking sight of thousands of dolphins porpoising out of the water together at high speed.

Dolphin stampedes can occur without warning or provocation. Therefore, Dana Point whale watching passengers can witness dolphin stampedes at any time, throughout the year.

Little is known about why dolphin stampedes happen. But we do know that porpoising is the fastest mode of travel for dolphins because there is less resistance in air than water. It could be that stampeding dolphins are racing to catch a food source or to meet up with another pod.

There are five different species of frequently seen dolphins. These include long-beaked common dolphins, short-beaked common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, and pacific white-sided dolphins. Common dolphins are the most numerous marine mammal in the waters off Dana Point.

Ready to experience the amazing dolphins of Dana Point, the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital® of the world?

Dana Point has Year-Round Large Whales

We are often asked, “when is the best time to see whales?” At Dana Point, California, the answer is easy: whenever you want!  Dana Point’s year-round whales include blue whales, fin whales, gray whales, humpback whales, and minke whales.

Dana Point, as the World’s Whale Capital®, is one of the best places in the world to view the largest animal to have ever lived on earth: the incomparable blue whale. With a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and arteries so large a toddler could crawl through them, blue whales are almost unfathomably large. Lucky for us, blue whales are as gentle as they are sizable. They don’t have teeth. Instead, blue whales filter tiny crustaceans called krill through plates of long baleen that hang from their upper jaw. Blue whales are best encountered during the months of May through October.

Blue whales are not the only baleen-toting, filter-feeding whales that inhabit the waters off Dana Point. The second largest whale in the world, fin whales, can be seen January through December. Although not as splashy as humpback whales, fin whales can be rather friendly towards boats. You will never forget the moment a 70 to 80 foot fin whale swims alongside your boat, turns on it’s side, and looks you in the eye. You may be left wondering, who is watching who?

Gray Whales helped to put Dana Point on the map and cement it’s status as the Whale Watching Capital of the World®. November through May gray whales make one of the longest migrations of any mammal, traveling along the U.S. West Coast and past Dana Point on their way to and from Baja California, Mexico. Gray whales are frequently encountered within just a mile or two of Dana Point’s shoreline. Sometimes, they’re even right outside of Dana Point Harbor, slipping stealthily past the stand-up paddle boarders. And gray whales are believed to use Dana Point’s headlands as a landmark to help guide them on their long journey.

Humpback whales are sighted off the coast of Dana Point throughout the year. They migrate from their winter breeding grounds off Mexico and Central America to areas off the California coast, including Dana Point, to feed on krill, small fish, and plankton. Easily recognized by their long pectoral flippers and frequent acrobatic surface behaviors, humpback whales have a welcome reputation of acting friendly and curious around Dana Point whale watching boats.

Stinky minke. Dinky minke. Minke whales have several nicknames and are the smallest baleen whale in the waters off Dana Point. Nevertheless, at lengths of up to 35 feet and weighing in at a hefty 20,000 pounds, minke whales are no tiny animal! Dana Point whale watchers can view minke whales January through December.

Are you ready to get up-close and personal with the year-round whales of Dana Point, the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital® of the world?

Dana Point Features a Plethora of Rare Whales and Dolphins

Dana Point, as the dolphin and whale watching capital of the world®, has no shortage of rare and special animals. Killer whales, pilot whales, false killer whales, sperm whales, Bryde’s whales, and Dall’s porpoise, just to name a few, can be seen at any time of the year.

The largest member of the dolphin family, and one of our favorite visitors, is the orca (more commonly known as the killer whale). Three different kinds of killer whales can be seen throughout the year, usually appearing without warning. Bigg’s (transient) killer whales are one of the most frequent ecotypes enjoyed by Dana Point whale watching guests. Transient orcas prey almost exclusively on other marine mammals such as sea lions, harbor seals, and other whales. Offshore killer whales are the second ecotype that visit Dana Point. Offshore orcas are believed to feed mostly on fish and sometimes sharks. Among the killer whales found in the northeastern Pacific, offshore orcas have the largest geographic range. A third group of killer whales seen off the coast of Dana Point does not currently belong to a known ecotype, but instead a population of killer whales known as the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) population. ETP orcas are typically prefer warmer waters off of Central America and Mexico. They are rarely encountered and not well-studied. Eastern Tropical Pacific orcas have been observed on multiple occasions preying on dolphins, so marine mammals do make up at least a portion of their diet.

Book your adventure now for a chance to experience the rare wildlife offered by Dana Point, the dolphin and whale watching capital of the world®.

Dana Point has the Best Small Harbor

Dana Point Harbor, located in Dana Point, California, offers with quick and easy access to open ocean, where the whales and dolphins are! Our cruises only take about 10 minutes to exit the harbor.

Laid-back, picturesque, and romantic, Dana Point Harbor is surrounded by beautiful cliffs including the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area. In addition to offering world-class dolphin and whale watching, Dana Point Harbor also offers shopping, dining, stand-up paddleboarding, picnic areas, and access to beaches including famous Doheny State Beach.

Unlike other Southern California harbors, Dana Point has no towering buildings, oil rigs or large ships that distort a whale watcher’s sense of the pristine and spectacular encounters.

Visit Dana Point, the dolphin and whale watching capital of the world®!

Dana Point has the Best Year-Round Weather for Whale Watching

Unlike many other locations around the world, Dana Point had moderate weather and mild ocean conditions throughout the year. Dana Point’s Mediterranean-like climate boasts warm summers and mild winters. “Sunny and 70” is how most locals refer to Dana Point’s average year-round weather.

Mild ocean conditions off of Dana Point create a smoother, more comfortable whale watching experience. Glassy seas, as flat as bathwater, are not uncommon especially in the early morning. In addition to your comfort, smooth ocean conditions can make it easier to spot the splashes, spouts, and dark shapes of whales and dolphins.

Dana Point Provides Abundant Habitats and Nutrition For Sea Life

Underwater coastal canyons and large kelp beds within a mile of shore provide rich habitats for numerous species of marine life; including the kinds of fish and crustaceans that dolphins and whales love to eat!

Dana Point Festival of Whales

Dana Point is home to the world’s first and longest-running annual whale festival. Since 1971 locals and visitors have celebrated whales, dolphins, and other marine life with a variety of activities, games, exhibits, presentations, and a parade that emphasize education and environmental responsibility. Held annually on the first and second weekends of March, the Dana Point Festival of Whales attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Dana Point is Home to Orange County’s Large Whale Disentanglement Team

Captain Dave founded and organized Orange County’s first whale rescue group. As part of a network of N.O.A.A. trained disentanglement teams he has been hands-on involved with multiple disentanglement efforts, including the first disentanglement of a blue whale.

Captain Dave believes it is critical to let people know that nearly 1,000 dolphins and whales are estimated to die every day worldwide in fishing gear entanglement.  To help raise awareness Capt. Dave authored the award winning book, Lily A Gray Whale’s Odyssey, a captivating and scientifically accurate tale of a gray whale’s migration with breathtaking photographs and foreword by Jean-Michel Cousteau. His book won eight awards, including the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award for Best New Voice from the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Captain Dave has been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Today Show, CBS This Morning, Eye on L.A., and other programs for his conservation efforts and his success in disentangling whales.

Dana Point, World’s Whale Watching Capital®, In The News

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