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Dana Point Harbor Whale Watching in The World’s Whale Capital®

Dana Point Harbor whale watching tours introduce you to a variety of year-round whales, more dolphins per square mile than anywhere else 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. It’s no wonder that 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 of several species), California’s Dana Point Harbor has a great density of dolphins per square mile. This makes Dana Point Harbor perfect for whale watching and dolphin safaris!

What is a Dolphin Stampede?

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 the dolphin stampede famous, and it remains the best place to witness firsthand the breathtaking sight of thousands of dolphins porpoising out of the water together at high speeds.

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 the air than in water. It could be that stampeding dolphins are racing to catch a food source or to meet up with another pod.

Will I Get to See A Dolphin Stampede on the Tour?

Dolphin stampedes can occur without warning or provocation. So, if you’ve come to Dana Point Harbor for whale watching tours, be prepared to witness this display. Luckily, this is not an event limited by season. Dolphin stampedes can occur at any time throughout the year for your viewing pleasure.

Which Dolphin Species Can be Seen at Dana Point?

There are five different species of frequently seen dolphins on our Dana Point whale watching tours. 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 mammals in the waters off Dana Point Harbor.

Ready to experience these amazing dolphins for yourself? Book your Dana Point Harbor whale watching and dolphin tour today.

Year-Round Dana Point Harbor Whale Watching

We are often asked, “When is the best time to see whales?” In Dana Point, California, the answer is easy: Whenever you want! Here, the year-round whales include blue whales, fin whales, gray whales, humpback whales, and minke whales.

Blue Whales

A Dana Point whale watching tour is one of the best ways to view the largest animal that’s 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 most likely to be encountered from May through October off of Dana Point Harbor on our whale watching tours.

Fin Whales

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 from January through December. Although not as splashy as humpback whales, if you’re on a whale watching tour in Dana Point, you’ll be happy to know 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 its side, and looks you in the eye. You may be left wondering who is watching who…

Gray Whales

Gray whales helped to put Dana Point on the map and cement its status as the DOLPHIN AND WHALE WATCHING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD®. From November through May, gray whales make one of the longest migrations of any mammal, traveling along the western coast of the U.S., past Dana Point on their way to and from Baja California, Mexico. Gray whales are frequently encountered within just a mile or two of the shoreline on a Dana Point Harbor whale watching safari. Sometimes, they’re even right outside of Dana Point Harbor, slipping stealthily past the stand-up paddleboarders. And gray whales are believed to use Dana Point’s headlands as a landmark to help guide them on their long journey.

Humpback Whales

Humpback whales are sighted off the coast of Dana Point throughout the year. They migrate from their winter breeding grounds near 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 boats during Dana Point whale watching tours.

Minke Whales

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

Are you ready to get up-close and personal with amazing mammals on a year-round whale watching tour in Dana Point? Book your Dana Point Harbor whale watching cruise today!

Dana Point Features a Plethora of Rare Whales and Dolphins

The DOLPHIN AND WHALE WATCHING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD® has no shortage of rare and special animals to be seen on Dana Point Harbor whale watching tours. 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.

Meet the Killer Whale Gang

The largest member of the dolphin family, and one of our favorite visitors, is the orca (more commonly known as the killer whale). Usually appearing without warning, three different kinds of killer whales can be seen throughout the year on our Dana Point whale watching tours:

  • Transient killer whales: Bigg’s (transient) killer whales are one of the most frequent ecotypes enjoyed by Dana Point Harbor whale watching guests. Transient orcas prey almost exclusively on other marine mammals such as sea lions, harbor seals, and other whales.
  • Offshore killer whales: Offshore killer whales are the second ecotype that visits the world’s whale watching capital®. 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.
  • Eastern Tropical Pacific orcas: The third group of killer whales seen off the coast of Dana Point Harbor 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 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 a Dana Point Harbor Whale Watching tour.

Best Small Harbor for Dana Point Whale Watching Tours

Dana Point Harbor, located in Dana Point, California, offers quick and easy access to the 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 world-class dolphin and whale watching, this location also offers shopping, dining, stand-up paddleboarding, picnic areas, and access to beaches—including the 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 views and spectacular encounters.

Join Capt. Dave for unforgettable Dana Point Harbor whale watching. Book your charter now!

Best Year-Round Weather for Dana Point Harbor Whale Watching

Unlike many other locations around the world, Dana Point has moderate weather and mild ocean conditions throughout the year. The Mediterranean-like climate boasts warm summers and mild winters. “Sunny and 70” is how most locals refer to the area’s average year-round weather which makes Dana Point Harbor perfect for whale watching tours!

Mild ocean conditions off of Dana Point Harbor create a smoother, more comfortable experience for those touring the world’s whale watching capital®. 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

Dana Point whale watching tours put you in the heart of one of the world’s most majestic natural habitats. Underwater coastal canyons and large kelp beds are within a mile of the shoreline and 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 Harbor 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. Book a Dana Point Harbor whale watching tour below!

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

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

Lily, A Gray Whale’s Odyssey

While Dana Point Harbor whale watching tours may be fun, there is a more serious side to enjoying these incredible creatures. Capt. Dave believes it is critical to let people know that nearly 1,000 dolphins and whales are estimated to die every day worldwide in a 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 a 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 Anderson in the Media

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 success in disentangling whales at the world’s whale watching capital.

Discover Dana Point for Yourself with our Five-Star Dolphin and Whale Watching Tours

Are you ready for your Dana Point whale watching tour? Jump onboard our Manute’a catamaran and see stunning marine wildlife close-up and personal with our exclusive underwater viewing pods during our Dana Point Harbor whale watching tours. Book your adventure online to join us for the experience of a lifetime in the DOLPHIN AND WHALE WATCHING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD®.

Whale Heritage Site Logo

Dana Point is a Whale Heritage Site

Dana Point, the Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World®, is the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas, as established by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA). The WCA is the world’s largest marine conservation partnership, dedicated to the promotion of safe and sustainable whale watching.

What is a Whale Heritage Site?

A Whale Heritage Site is an outstanding location where cetaceans (whales, dolphins, or porpoises) are embraced through the cultural, economic, social, and political lives of associated communities, and where people and cetaceans coexist in an authentic and respectful way.

Whale Heritage Sites give visitors a transparent and easy way to select responsible whale and dolphin watching destinations (like our Dana Point Harbor whale watching tours), encouraging them to experience these incredible animals in their natural habitat, in an authentic and respectful way.

The criteria for acceptance are incredibly challenging, focusing on protection, sustainability, education, research, public access, and awareness, as well as requiring a community effort that furthers the purpose of a Whale Heritage Site.

World’s Whale Watching Capital®, In The News

Orange County Register Article by Erika Ritchie

Date: 22-July-2019

File size: 16.7 MB

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County of Orange Proclamation

Date: 01-October-2019

File size: 1.6 MB

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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