Manute’a, (50-ft catamaran) and Lily (62-ft catamaran) are U.S. Coast Guard certified to carry up to 49 happy passengers and they are both roomy, even at full capacity. And although DolphinSafari.com (our original 35-ft catamaran) is U.S. Coast Guard certified for 26, we limit the trips to 20 because we know you love extra elbow room. The boats have two hulls each, are extra stable, and don’t rock from side to side like a traditional mono-hull or a toddler on time out. Did we mention our boats are roomy? There’s ample room with enough seating for everyone in the cockpit. We have accommodated paraplegics and quadriplegics, pregnant mothers, and six-week old infants on board. (Six weeks is not really “old,” but…)
Children of all ages are welcome aboard most our boats. (The Zodiac-style vessels are an exception, check out the special info below.) All of our vessels are safe and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Ocean-Themed Activities for the Kids
While our daily dolphin and whale watching Signature Safaris do not have an age limit, children under three occasionally grow bored or fall asleep. We make the trip more fun and educational by using mini-scale models of whales and dolphins and allow them to see and touch real whale baleen and vertebrae. Sometimes, we’re able to let them take a turn at steering the boat! (This works out fine, as long as they keep the boat in Orange County. A two-year-old steered us to Cancun one time so we now limit the steering to two minutes.)
What They Say about Working with Children and Animals…
W.C. Fields famously advised to “never work with children or animals.” At Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari, we work with both and love it! Dolphins seem to adore children—actually, they adore babies of any species. They seem to be especially attracted to human children, just as we are attracted to baby dolphins! We often see dolphins cluster around the Underwater Viewing Pods if children are in the pods. Pretty cool, huh?
Life vests are available for children and you are always welcome to bring your own. Children are safe anywhere on the boat, as long as you are with them!
However, out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women are not allowed on our public 2-hour Zodiac Safaris due to the potentially bouncy ride.
Pregnant woman are also allowed on all private charters, including the Zodiacs. Just keep in mind that if you need us to go slower on your Zodiac private charter, it may impact the speed at which we can reach the animals and distance we can travel.
Our crew wants to accommodate every passenger! Please call us at 949-488-2828 to make arrangements for a guest with special needs.
Your entire whale watching experience is outdoors, from when you check in, until the time you disembark the boat at the end of your cruise.
Please visit our Covid-19 page for the latest health and safety measures.
Why You Should Choose Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari
Dana Point is the one and only Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World®. As a result, some whale watching companies who are not located in Dana Point will try to make you think they are. When choosing a dolphin and whale watching company, be sure to choose an experience with an official Dana Point whale watching company. And yes, Capt. Dave’s is located on the waterfront in Dana Point Harbor, and is an official Dana Point whale watching company!
Dana Point is also the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas to be certified by the World Cetacean Alliance.
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.
Select the date and time you would like to sail (we’ll be sure to have the whales and dolphins mark it on their calendars, too!).
Pay for your spot with a debit or credit card in our secure checkout so we can ensure there is plenty of fuel in the tank before we set off.
Turn up 30-45 minutes before your scheduled tour with your camera, plenty of snacks, a sense of adventure, and ready to explore Dana Point—the Dolphin and Whale Capital of the World®!
Some public trips do have a minimum; it varies. Please call us at 949-488-2828 if you have questions about a minimum for your trip.
Changes and Cancellations
All reservations are non-cancelable, non-refundable, and non-changeable unless you have purchased Trip Cancellation Protection. Trip Cancellation Protection is no-hassle insurance that allows you to convert your trip tickets into an e-gift card, reschedule your trip once, or be refunded.
If you have purchased our Trip Cancellation Protection, please be sure to contact us no less than 24 hours in advance of your public cruise, or, no less than 48 hours before your private charter.
If you did not purchase trip insurance, the reservation is non-cancelable, non-refundable, and non-changeable. However, we understand that unforeseen and extenuating circumstances can occur. If you need to cancel or modify your whale watching reservation please let us know in advance by calling 949-488-2828, texting us at 949-763-4488, or send an email. We evaluate each request on a case by case basis and try our best to reach an amicable conclusion.
Cruise itineraries and boats are subject to change without notice and are not a determinant for cancellation or refund.
In order to determine the best time to whale watch, we randomly polled whales and dolphins and received a unanimous response. There is no specific time! Dolphins, whales, and all types of marine wildlife float, freestyle, glide, pose, dive, dip and zip by throughout the year, all day long. Morning trips are calmer because there’s less wind, and disruptions in the water are easier to spot. But then again, later trips have the advantage of knowledge about the prior trip. So… it’s up to you!
Fun fact: Capt. Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safaris locate dolphins or whales over 95% of the time throughout the year. Awesomeness.
Bonus fun fact: Mrs. Capt. Dave’s famous fudge brownies are handed out regardless of sightings. Double awesomeness.
But, in the unlikely event your safari turns up zero—no whales or dolphins—regular fare guests can return for FREE on a Signature Safari or Zodiac Safari within one year from the date of the trip!
(* Starting July 6, 2016, receive a free ticket for a “no sightings” safari.)
IMPORTANT: Your “no sightings” ticket is non-transferable and expires one year from the date of your “no sightings” safari. Please use your free ticket before the expiration date!
Geography and Weather
Our vessels usually go out about 3-5 miles, but we have gone up to 8 miles from shore on occasion, depending on where the whales and dolphins are. We are always in view of the gorgeous Orange County coastline. Feel free to take a selfie, or three!
If it’s safe, we go! It rarely rains in Southern California but if it does, your captain makes a decision as to the safety of the voyage before departure. Be prepared, at the dock, and ready to go! Need a rain poncho? Who doesn’t? You may purchase one at the Dolphin Deck or feel free to bring your own.
We’ve got options for that!
Want wet? Captain Dave’s “wettest” boats is also our fastest. The Zodiacs (rigid hull inflatable boats) offer a bouncy and thrilling ride. Any closer to the water and the dolphins will name you and assume you’ve joined their pod. Splish, splash, protect your electronics in zip lock bags or other gear!
DolphinSafari, a catamaran sailboat, is very close to the water. Leave your Nikes in the cabin and let your toes say “hello, sunshine!”, because there’s a good chance you’ll get moist if you go up on the bow. The bow features our Eye-spy Dolphin Tram Nets so you can get up close and personal with sea life. But you can also stay in the dry, covered cabin area. There is cushioned seating, too! Dry, cushioned seating… or take a “bow”—it’s completely up to you!
Manute’a, our catamaran sailboat, is the primary vessel used for our daily whale watching safaris. She also has our Underwater Viewing Pods, Eye-spy Dolphin Tram Nets, and the stay-dry covered-cabin with cushioned seating option. Depending on ocean conditions, your legs and feet could get wet on the bow while the boat is out to sea and going fast! However, the boat slows down in the presence of dolphins and whales and you’re less likely to get splashed.
Hoku Nai’a, our newest power catamaran to join the fleet, has a bow that is higher off the water and the observation deck is on the second floor, so it’s unlikely you’ll get wet. A little ocean spray maybe. (Not the berries.) But feel free to wet your whistle in our upscale galley! Hoku Nai’s has two fully covered decks—stay dry while viewing the wonderful wildlife!
ORCA, our 6-passenger luxury motor yacht, is available for private charters. ORCA is close to the water but you’re not likely to get damp when on the bow. A fully enclosed cabin and bridge, and a covered aft deck all offer incredible views without a splash in sight!
Wildfires have never had a direct impact on our whale watching cruises from our coastal location in Dana Point.
California is a vast state which comprises 100 million acres. Even large fires burn just a small percentage of the state’s total land mass. Fires may occur across the state, and predominantly break out in remote, forested areas away from population centers. Travel disruptions are localized, thereby providing many unaffected places to visit such as Dana Point.
California is a safe destination with an abundance of experiences to enjoy year-round.
Warm, dry late-summer and autumn conditions make for a beautiful experience in California, but also higher risk for fires, a natural occurrence up and down the West Coast and many other parts of the world.
Wildfires have happened naturally for centuries, and every green forest enjoyed today has burned at some point in history.
Fires play a critical role in the lifecycle of a forest, naturally reseeding trees, diversifying the landscape and supporting new plant and wildlife that depend on burned areas to regenerate and thrive. Wildfires are to forests what rain is to the rainforest.
We recommend checking in at least 45 minutes ahead of time. Check-in and chill on the Dolphin Deck. From snacks to sunscreen, we’ve got your back. (Or head, if you need a hat.)
Between June and September, on holidays, or the Festival of Whales, we suggest arriving 60 to 90 minutes in advance to ensure parking ease at Dana Point Harbor because whales tend to double-park.
There is free public parking in front of our building and next door near Baby Beach. Keep in mind this parking is first-come, first-served.
During busier seasons such as summer, on holidays (looking at you 4th of July), and during the Festival of Whales (in March) parking is likely to be extra challenging.
Arriving early gives you more time to park and enjoy an unhurried check-in experience before your cruise.
Think ‘picnic with friends’ if picnic was on the ocean and friends are hungry.
Water, soda, snacks, and sandwiches, maybe beer, wine, or dark roasted cold brew? On most trips, all good! Special exceptions apply to our Zodiac-style boats; please see below.
You’re welcome to bring beer and wine on our 2.5-hour Dolphin & Whale Watching Signature Safari, but for safety, please don’t forget the plastic cups! And as always, drink responsibly or walk the plank. Personal coolers are allowed, but due to limited deck space, should be no larger than a 12-can hard cooler OR a 24-can soft cooler.
No time? Visit our Dolphin Deck, where you can purchase hot and cold beverages, delicious sandwiches, yummy snacks, and refreshing ice cream.
Stuff to bring:
Cameras (or extra space on the smartphone)
Film or memory cards
Caps and visors
Jackets and windbreakers are always good, too.
Luckily, you can grab many of these items and more at the Dolphin Deck! Plus, feel free to check in early and have a chat with our land crew. They can answer questions and help pick out a sandwich.
Our rigid hull inflatable (Zodiac-style) boats have special requirements for safety and comfort.
Due to limited space, coolers or other personal bags are allowed but must fit on your lap.
Because of their fast and bouncy ride, beverage containers that can be closed, such as reusable water bottles, and easy-to-eat dry snacks that won’t be swept away by the wind, such as granola bars, are suggested.
It’s usually 10-15 degrees cooler on the water, even when the sun shines, so it’s a good idea to layer clothes. The “t-shirt, sweatshirt, and windbreaker” ensemble might not bring out the paparazzi but is a winning combination at sea.
Wear tennis shoes or deck shoes if possible—preferably with non-marking, non-black soles.
And if it looks like rain, a rain poncho will help. A hat or visor is a good idea, too. Wear your hats securely, because the sea lions have refused to collect any more hats. (Their collection is amazing.)
Southern California is known for it’s beautiful, generally mild weather. But like life, it can still be unpredictable. Weather and ocean conditions can and do change from day to day and hour to hour.
Enjoying Your Time on Board
All boats have a bathroom except our high-speed Zodiac-style boat, Fast Cat.
Manute’a, the primary catamaran used for our daily whale watching tours, has two bathrooms. The bathrooms are slightly below deck so you need to be able to climb down a small boat ladder—just three steps—to get to them.
Hoku Nai’a, our new double-deck power catamaran has two bathrooms on the main deck (first floor).
And although Fast Cat does not have a bathroom, there are facilities on land available before boarding. (Quick, how many times did we say bathroom? Time’s up.)
If anyone in your group has had past problems with motion sickness, please consult a doctor. There are new and improved ways to avoid seasickness and they should be able to help you. If you plan on taking over-the-counter medication such as Bonine or Dramamine, please be sure to take them at least one full hour before the trip’s departure. (Because the colors blue and green belong in the sea and not on you, right?)
DOLPHIN DECK to the rescue: Bonine, Dramamine, and ginger tablets are available for purchase at check-in. Ginger Ale and Pressure Point Wristbands are all available at the Dolphin Deck, but check in early to ensure maximum effectiveness.
EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM: In this case, worm = not feeling so seasick. Morning cruises usually have the smoothest ocean conditions. When booking, the earlier the better!
MORE ADVICE: Eat lightly beforehand, avoid spicy foods and alcohol and get plenty of sleep the night before.
NATURAL REMEDIES include ginger, such as ginger cookies or ginger gum, and pressure point wristbands might help calm your stomach. Google ginger for more fun facts.
Yes! Dolphins are up all night rehearsing those jumps so… please… indulge them.
Share your whale watching photos and videos with us on Facebook or Instagram. Tag us #CaptDaves!
Sure. But only if you would like to, and please know it’s never expected. If you have enjoyed your whale and dolphin safari, gratuities are always appreciated.
We offer the choice to include gratuity while booking, or, feel free to tip in person at the conclusion of your cruise if you prefer.
Get in Touch with Dana Point’s Number One Tour Company
Still have questions? If there’s anything we haven’t covered in our FAQs or on our website, contact Captain Dave or call us at 949-488-2828 and we will be happy to help you. However, if you want to know the recipe for Mrs. Captain Dave’s Triple Fudge Brownies, you’ll have to book a tour and join us in person to find out. Book your whale watching tour now and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime!
If you’re looking for whale watching near Dana Point, we guarantee you’ve never experienced anything like this. Our exclusive underwater glass viewing pods put you face to face with some of the largest creatures on earth! Book your seat today!
Just like our Signature Safari, but faster and closer! Get within arm’s reach of wildlife on our speedy and fun dolphin & whale watching zodiac-style boats (rigid hull inflatables). VERY low to the water & GoPro friendly. Book your intimate experience now!
Booking a private boat charter gives you all the beauty Dana Point has to offer, and with exclusivity of a private event. All boat rentals come with Captain & crew. Explore suggested private charter itineraries or make your own!