Dana Point Whale Watching

5-Star rated dolphin & whale watching cruises aboard unique catamarans with exclusive features such as as underwater viewing.

Quick Details

All dolphin and whale watching tours depart out of beautiful Dana Point, California, the dolphin and whale capital of the world®!

Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari

  • Duration: 2.5 hours
  • Prices:
    $65 adults (age 13 & up)
    $45 children (age 1 – 12)
    $5 infants
  • Manute’a Features: Large, stable sailboat catamaran. Never crowded with up to 49 guests. Two eye-to-eye underwater viewing pods, eye-spy dolphin and whale tram nets, micro-museum of artifacts, live narration, Mrs. Capt. Dave’s triple fudge brownies. Perfect for all ages.

Zodiac Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Prices: $65 adults and children (age 8 & up)
  • Fast Cat Features: Very fast and fun zodiac catamaran. Intimate tour with up to 12 guests. Extremely close to the water; GoPro friendly. Heavily padded seats, large sunshade, wide bow area, live narration, Mrs. Capt. Dave’s triple fudge brownies. Perfect for adventurous types.

For over twenty years, Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari has enabled passengers to experience daily year-round whale watching out of Dana Point, California, where onlookers can view whales and dolphins from upscale eco-friendly viewing vessels.

The whale watching in Dana Point is a wonderful option for travelers cruising from Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, who are hoping for less travel time to their whale watching destination. With a 5-star customer rated whale watching cruise and a 95% success rating of seeing wildlife, the adventures aboard Captain Dave’s vessels can get passengers up-close and personal with the dolphins, whales, and a large variety of additional marine life off the coast of Dana Point Harbor.

Public whale watching cruises, which depart daily with a seat for everyone on board, are never overcrowded and always comfortable. You also have the option of upgrading to a private boat rental. Private charters are available for 1 to 49 guests on a single vessel, or well over 100 guests across multiple boats. Whale watching private charters are an affordable way to enjoy a customized and luxurious Dana Point whale watching experience.

Dolphin and Whale Watching for Dana Point Guests or Locals

Dana Point whale watching passengers who are visiting between September and May can have the opportunity to spot some of our favorite yearly visitors, gray whales. During whale watching cruises these mammals are often seen hugging the coast while completing their annual migration. Gray whales migrate through the Dana Point area to reach their breeding grounds in Baja California, south of the Orange County area. Between May and October passengers aboard a whale watching Dana Point cruise may have the amazing opportunity to catch a glimpse of the planet’s largest mammal, the blue whale. With a sleek and streamlined body that can stretch to lengths of up to 110 feet, these extraordinary giants are nothing less than breathtaking.

With nearly seventy different wildlife species in the Dana Point area, visitors aboard a whale watching tour may also say hello to at least five different species of dolphins including long and short-beaked common dolphins, bottlenose, pacific white-sided and Risso’s dolphins. And as Dana Point is the dolphin and whale watching capital of the world®, one may also encounter over ten different types of whales including humpback, fin, minke, sperm, pilot and what’s technically a dolphin, but more well known as the famous killer whale. Other local wildlife species include sea lions, seals, sharks, and a slew of beautiful pelagic birds. No mermaids sighted just yet, although we have heard rumors that a dolphin stampede bears an uncanny resemblance to the elusive sea creatures!

Visitors and locals alike in the Dana Point area can be certain to take part in an unforgettable, up-close, and intimate experience with the incredible wildlife during their whale watching safari in Dana Point.

When visitors touch down in Dana Point for a whale watching adventure, it’s important to remember a few sea-worthy must-haves for their wildlife safari. These items range from cameras, layered clothing, sunscreen, and binoculars. The wonderful wildlife and spectacular scenery of Dana Point’s coastline viewed aboard a whale watching trip will be sure to make you glad that you remembered your camera. And while it may be a beautiful and bright sunny day out there on the water in Dana Point, the temperature does drop about 10 to 15 degrees when sailing across the deep blue. This will have you craving the comfort of a sweater and or jacket to layer up in during your whale watching Dana Point safari. The cooler temperature may have you bundled up, but the sun will still be shining brightly! So make a note to invite your bottle of sunscreen along as we’d hate to have you return looking like a lovely lobster with a red face. Binoculars are also welcome to tag along with you during your whale watching Dana Point expedition, as they may help you spot that spout in the distance.

Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari in Dana Point, California, find joy in delivering our best service to you during your Whale Watching Dana Point trip. Be sure to remember your bundle of must-have whale watching items so that your safari in Dana Point is nothing less than amazing. We hope you will also find joy in this memorable experience as you spend time with Dana Point’s local wildlife while surrounded by nature’s exquisite scenery.

Suggested Items to Bring When Dolphin and Whale Watching

Binoculars

Bincoulars are suggested, but never required. Our Captains and crew are experts at finding the animals during your whale watching trip while giving you an up-close and personal look.

In fact, Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari vessels are designed to get you as close as possible to the wildlife you will be seeing during your whale watching Dana Point trip. So close that you could see anything from the beautiful markings on a Risso’s dolphin, the sleek black and white coloring of an orca, to the bejeweled barnacles on a friendly gray whale.

Camera

A whale watching trip in Dana Point is something to remember, so make sure to bring your camera to capture those unforgettable moments that can last a lifetime through the photos you’ll take.

The viewing areas aboard Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching vessel are exceptional at enabling passengers to get that perfect shot of a mega-pod of dolphins, or a massive whale swimming right up-close to where you’ll be playing paparazzi during your whale watching Dana Point trip.

Layered Clothing

While aboard your whale watching safari, the temperature can feel much cooler as it can drop between 10 to 15 degrees. We highly recommend wearing layered clothing, and bringing a sweater or jacket. A windbreaker is also great option to keep you warm during your outing.

A hat or visor is also a great idea!

Sunscreen & Chapstick

Although the temperature may drop several degrees during your whale watching trip, the sun will still be shining brightly, so it’s a wonderful idea to pack your SPF sunscreen and lip smackers. These friends will be an aid in protecting you from the bright and beautiful yet intense sunshine.

These products, as well as loads of your favorite ocean and marine wildlife merchandise, can be purchased at our Dolphin Deck located on the waterfront in Dana Point Harbor.

Cash or Card

No cash is required to purchase snacks and merchandise at our storefront, Dolphin Deck, as we accept both cash and cards. These forms of payment are also accepted aboard our vessels, Manute’a and Lily.

Willingness to Relax & Connect With Nature

Your dolphin and whale watching cruise is the perfect opportunity to set aside your worries and connect with family, friends, and the beautiful nature surrounding you. Take a deep breath of the refreshing ocean air. Boat hair? Don’t care! Close your eyes and listen to the dolphins splash, gulls call, and whales spout. Take in Dana Point’s gorgeous coastline.

Species of Whales in the Dana Point, California, Area and Surrounding Waters

Blue Whale Fluke
Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus)

Dana Point plays host to the one of the largest concentration of blue whales in the world, which makes this area prime for whale watching. Aboard a whale watching Dana Point trip, passengers can have the opportunity to take a close up peek of the planet’s largest mammal, the blue whale. Weighing up to 400,000 pounds and measuring longer than the staples center basketball court at a length of 110 feet, it’s no wonder why these beauties eat up nearly four tons of krill per day and have a heart the size of a Volkswagen beetle. When fully expanded, the blue whale can hold nearly 1,000 tons of food and water in their throat/mouth area, making them an exceptional sight to see during your whale watching Dana Point safari.

  • Sighted: May - October
  • Frequency: common sighting
Fin Whale
Fin Whales (Balaenoptera physalus)

While aboard a whale watching Dana Point safari, visitors can be given the chance to spot a fin whale. Fin whales are the second largest baleen whale and mammal in the world, following their magnificent cousin, the blue whale.

Fast and sleek, fin whales reach lengths of up to 70 to 80 feet and weigh in at 80 tons. Fin whales, like blue whales, are rorquals that have throat grooves which expand when feeding. The throat grooves, or ventral pleats, give fin whales the advantage of taking in up to 3 tons of food per day. Their favorite prey includes krill and schooling fish.

Fin whales have a unique appearance with asymmetrical coloring under their lower jaw, light gray, v-shaped “chevrons” behind their head and tall, curved dorsal fins. Regardless of their large size, the fin whale is known as “the greyhound of the sea,” as it is able to swim in short bursts up to 23 miles per hour. Whale Watching Dana Point visitors can spot these gorgeous giants anytime throughout the year.

  • Sighted: January - December
  • Frequency: common sighting
Gray-Whale-Breaching-3929_Copyright-Dolphin-Safari
Gray Whales (Eschrichtius robustus)

Often referred to as our barnacled bejeweled buddies, California gray whales are 40-50 foot lice covered, mud sucking, bottom feeders who are part of the baleen whale family. Feeding primarily on amphipods, a small crustacean found on the ocean floor, gray whales spend the summer months feeding in the cold waters of the Bering and Chukchi seas, near Alaska.

The gray whale takes part in one of the longest migrations of any animal, traveling nearly 12,000 miles round trip to the warm lagoons in Baja, California, to mate and give birth to their calves. This migration enables whale watching Dana Point passengers the opportunity to say hello as they pass through the waters off of Dana Point, California, during this annual migration during the months of November to May. The gray whale weighs up to 90,000 pounds making them one of the larger whales, but not as large as their baleen relatives, the blue whales.

  • Sighted: November - May
  • Frequency: common sighting
Breaching Humpback Whale
Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Humpback whales are seen by Whale Watching Dana Point passengers all throughout the year in Dana Point, California. The Humpback whale is easily identifiable by its long pectoral flippers which play a part in making these beauties famous for their lively and energetic shows of breaching, lobtailing, and fluking. Humpback whales can weigh between 20 to 40 tons and average 40 to 50 feet in length.

Humpback whales are dark gray in color, with variable amounts of white on the ventral side of the pectoral flippers, belly, and tail flukes. Humpback whales are also recognizable by their knobbly heads. Each humpback whale is extremely unique and can be identified by the pattern of pigmentation on their flukes, as well as the shape of their tails. The waters along the coast of Southern California in Dana Point play host to these beauties, as they leave their winter feeding grounds in the arctic for warmer, much cozier waters off Mexico where they breed, give birth, and nurse their young.

  • Sighted: January - December
  • Frequency: common sighting
Killer-Whale-Mother-and-Calf-0938-copyright-Dolphin-Safari
Killer Whales (Orcinus orca)

Whale watching Dana Point visitors may have the amazing opportunity to catch a glimpse of a famous killer whale. Best known for their common name, the killer whale, orcas are technically not whales and are actually members of the dolphin family, having the distinction of being the largest dolphin in the world!

Orcas are instantly recognizable by their beautiful black and white coloring and tall dorsal fins which can stand as tall as 6 feet. Orcas stretch to lengths of 23 to 32 feet long, can weigh between 4 to 9 tons depending on gender, and swim at a speed of up to 30 miles per hour. Their incredible coloring, agility, and speed give them all the more advantage when hunting prey. And they have the distinction of being nature’s top predator, giving them their famous name, the killer whale. Using strategic and meticulous hunting strategies, killer whales eat up to 500 pounds of food per day. They are found in almost every ocean, making them a surprising and favorite visitor for passengers about a whale watching Dana Point adventure.

Minke Whale
Minke Whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

At 26 to 30 feet in length, Minke whales are one of the smaller baleen whales seen by whale watching Dana Point visitors. Minke whales have dark gray to black coloring on top, white coloring on the belly, and distinctive white bands around the middle of their pectoral flippers.

Similar to their relatives such as blue whales and fin whales, minke whales are also roquarls with 50 to 70 ventral pleats that expand like a balloon when feeding on krill and small schooling fish. Of all of the rorqual baleen whales, minke whales are the most abundant. Whale watching Dana Point passengers can spot these breathtaking mammals anytime throughout the year in Dana Point, California.

  • Sighted: January - December
  • Frequency: common sighting
Sperm-Whale-swiming-under-boat_copyright-Dolphin-Safari
Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus)

Whale watching Dana Point visitors may have the magnificent chance to see the sperm whale. The sperm whale is a unique looking toothed whale that spends the majority of its time in deep waters catching their favorite prey, giant squid. The sperm whale eats up to 2,000 pounds of food per day and stretches to a length of 49-52 feet.

With heads larger than your favorite bowl of ice cream, the sperm whale sports a large head that is ranked as the largest noggin of any animal. The sperm whale weighs anywhere from 12 to 45 tons, depending on gender, and is dark grey in color with a large blowhole situated to the left side of their head.

Sperm whales communicate via sonar, using a series of amplified clicks and whistles to locate food and swim in those deep dark waters. Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari had the incredible opportunity to say hello to nearly sixty sperm whales during a whale watching Dana Point trip just several years ago in 2014.

  • Sighted: January - December
  • Frequency: rare sighting
False Killer Whale
False Killer Whales (Pseudorca crassidens)

False killer whales are mammals and members of the dolphin (Delphinidae) family, just like killer whales (orcas). Adult male false killer whales can reach lengths of up to 20 feet and weigh 3,000 pounds. Females are a few feet smaller. Newborn false killer whale calves are less than five feet in length and will nurse for about 1.5 to 2 years.

False killer whales are dark gray in color and often appear black. They have a conical shaped head, and like Risso’s dolphins, lack a beak. That’s not the only common trait false killer whales share with Risso’s dolphins. Like Risso’s, false killer whales prey on squid and fish. These deep-diving predators can dive for up to 18 minutes and chase prey down to depths of over 1,600 feet.

Whale watching Dana Point visitors may have a chance encounter with false killer whales anytime throughout the year. They’re a rare and special sighting because false killer whales usually prefer deep, tropical and subtropical waters.

  • Sighted: January - December
  • Frequency: rare sighting
Pilot Whale
Pilot Whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus)

There are two species of pilot whales: short-finned pilot whales and long-finned pilot whales. Of the two, Dana Point whale watching passengers could have a chance encounter with short-finned pilot whales anytime during the year. Short-finned pilot whales were once a frequent sighting off the U.S. West Coast. After a strong El Niño in the early 1980’s they all but disappeared. It is estimated that only 800 pilot whales are left in the area. In what may or may not be a coincidence, around the time pilot whales left, Risso’s dolphins began appearing.

Short-finned pilot whales can grow up to 24 feet in length and weigh over 6,000 pounds. They have a very rounded head with no discernible beak. They’re dark brown or black in color with a light gray saddle behind the dorsal fin. Females are pregnant for about 15 months and nurse for at least two years.

Short-finned pilot whales love squid, and will also happily feed on fish and octopus.

  • Sighted: January - December
  • Frequency: rare sighting

Species of Dolphins in the Dana Point, California, Area and Surrounding Waters

Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphins are one of the most well-known dolphin species that can be seen during your whale watching Dana Point trip. larger than common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins grow to lengths of 8 to 12 feet and can weigh anywhere been 300 to 1,400 pounds. Their coloring is light to very dark gray on top and light gray on the belly side. Bottlenose dolphins are very intelligent, playful, and social creatures, and often respond to the clapping and cheering of Dana Point whale watching passengers with acrobatic aerial performances. Bottlenose dolphins can be seen all year round during your dolphin and whale watching safari in Dana Point, California.

  • Sighted: January - December
Common Dolphin
Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis)

With more dolphins per square mile than anywhere else in the world, whale watching Dana Point visitors are likely to spot two of the five species of dolphins we see in Dana Point, California. Both short-beaked and long-beaked common dolphins are frequent visitors aboard Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari. In fact, a typical pod of common dolphins will number around 200 and we often see herds that number over 1,000. It is also not unusual for us to spot a mega-pod of dolphins, numbering no less than 10,000 dolphins strong!

Each dolphin weighs in at an average of 300 pounds, measures 6 to 9 feet in length, and sports up elaborate color patterns that range from yellow/tan to gray and black. Common dolphins tend to be extremely social animals and frequently come over to “bow-ride” with our whale watching boats while taking a peek at passengers up above and down below in our underwater viewing pods. Common dolphins eat small schooling fish such as sardines, mackerel, and anchovies, as well as squid.

  • Sighted: January - December
Pacific-White-sided-Dolphin-1508__copyright-Dolphin-Safari
Pacific White-sided Dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens)

During a Dana Point whale watching expedition, passengers may have the chance to see one of the most beautiful species of dolphin in the Dana Point area, the Pacific white-sided dolphin. Pacific white-sided dolphins, often referred to as lags, are a magnificent colored dolphin that are colored in shades of black, gray, and white. Pacific white-sided dolphins weigh between 300 – 400 pounds and are up to 8 feet in length, depending on their gender.

Gobbling up a diet of squid and small schooling fish such as anchovies and sardines, they dive for up to six minutes to catch their prey. Pacific white-sided dolphins are extremely playful and very friendly, often bow-riding with our whale watching vessels and interacting with other wildlife out at sea. Pacific white-sided dolphins can be viewed any time throughout the year in during a whale watching Dana Point trip, but they are more often seen in the winter months.

  • Sighted: October - April
Risso’s dolphin
Risso's Dolphins (Grampus griseus)

Whale watching Dana Point onlookers may also have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of one of Dana Point’s most unique visitors, the Risso’s dolphins. Risso’s dolphins are one of the larger dolphins we encounter and also one of the most infrequently seen.

Risso’s dolphins are extremely unique and unusual looking with a blunt, round head and no distinguishable beak. They are dark gray with a plethora of white scarring which becomes more predominant as they age. Risso’s dolphins can weigh up to 1,100 pounds and reach a length of up to 10 feet.

Risso’s favorite menu item is squid, which they often dive to depths of 1,000 feet and hold their breath for up to 30 minutes to catch. Although Risso’s dolphins are one of the most infrequently seen species aboard a whale watching Dana Point trip, their visits can take place any time throughout the year.

  • Sighted: January - December