When Is Whale Watching Season?

group of krill in Long Beach ocean
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blue whales migrating in the ocean on LA whale watching cruise
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Gray whale under water on Long Beach whale watching cruise

Whale watching in California is a beloved and unique experience for tourists and locals alike. The Pacific Coast is the perfect spot to do so, as some of the largest and most incredible sea mammals make their way to and through various spots of the coast of Southern California during their migration seasons, often spotted feeding, playing, and even mating. Not far off the coast, there is so much to see on a whale watching tour.

When Is Whale Watching Season?

To determine whale season for whale watching, it is best to first research the specific species of whale you’d like to see and when whale migration season is in Southern California. Fortunately, whale watching season in Southern California can include almost any time of the year if you know where to go. Southern California in particular is known to have spectacular year round whale season, with a number of different species making an appearance at different points.

For those interested in viewing gray whale whale season, dolphins and humpback whale season, for example, it is generally recommended that you participate in a tour during whale watching season in Southern California between January and April. During these winter months, these whales have made the long journey from the chilly waters of Alaska, and are headed towards the warm, tropical waters of Mexico.

Blue whale and finback whale lovers should venture out on their whale watching excursions during whale season of May and September. Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the minke whale are advised to visit during the whale watching season of October and December.

What to Look For During Whale Watching Season

Whales will usually breach the surface of the water during whale watching season to breath, and it is during this time when you have the perfect opportunity to view these majestic beings up close. One way to keep an eye out for whales during whale season is to look for a spout or blow.  A whale blow occurs as the whale exhales above the surface of the water, and the shape of their blowhole determines the shape of the blow. While on the boat, you may see in the water what looks like a puff of smoke- you’ve spotted a whale! To determine which type of whale you’re viewing during whale watching season, keep in mind that orcas, also known as killer whales, will typically have a bushy-shaped blow. Gray whales have a characteristics double blowhole, so their spout will be heart-shaped. Finally, humpback whales will express a tall, column-shaped blow.

In addition to their spot, different whales can be identified during whale season based on the shape, size, and location of their dorsal fins. For example, orcas will have triangular dorsal fins that can reach heights of up to 6 feet on males. Gray whales, on the other hand, have smaller dorsal ridges. When whale watching during whale season, you can also have luck identifying various whale species by looking at their tail flukes. Humpback whale tail flukes often feature distinctive marks on the underside of their tails, and the tail fluke of a gray whale can reach a span of up to 10 feet.

Selecting a Whale Season Tour

Off the coasts of California, there is no shortage of whale watching tours available for whale season. From 2-hour trips to multi-day cruises, whale watching during whale season is a highly popular activity. However, it is important to do your research before embarking, as not all whale watching tours are created equal. To ensure you have an enjoyable time, there are few questions you should ask for your whale watching season trip:

  • How long will the whale watching trip last?
  • Is the boat being used Coast Guard certified?
  • Will there be an experienced naturalist on board to answer questions?
  • Are there places to sit and take a break on the boat?
  • Is the boat a member of the stringently self-regulated Whale Watching Operations Association?
  • Have they received strong ratings?

By keeping these questions in mind as you research a reputable whale watching tour, you can ensure a memorable whale season experience for yourself and your family. You may also want to consider exploring the company’s whale watching report, as this can indicate their success in viewing whales on particular days throughout the various whale watching seasons.

Tips for Preparing for Whale Watching Season

Dress warmly and with layers: because a great deal of whale watching in California occurs during the winter months, it is important to make sure your bundled up and comfortable. Temperatures off the shore can be 20-30 degrees cooler than on land, so make sure to wear layers. You may want to pack gloves or mittens.

Bring a waterproof jacket: some boats used for whale watching can kick up a spray, to you may get wet. Protect your clothing and ensure you stay warm by bringing a waterproof jacket with a hood.

Protect yourself from the sun: Sunglasses, hat or visor, and sunscreen are all whale watching essentials. As you may be on the boat for hours, you want to ensure you don’t return to shore with an uncomfortable burn.

Keep realistic expectations: while your guide will do their best to make sure you see as much wildlife as possible, there is never a guarantee. Unfortunately, these wild animals do not appear on command.

Whale Watching with Harbor Breeze Cruises

For over 18 years, Harbor Breeze Cruises has delighted individuals and families alike with top quality whale watching cruises and excursions in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas.  Our highly experienced captains are trained to provide the most enjoyable experience, providing informative narration throughout the duration of your trip.  With a snack bar, restrooms, ample seating, and more, we guarantee customers a comfortable and fun outing as they search the waters for the various whale species.

If you’re interested in embarking on an unforgettable Los Angeles whale watching tour, we invite you to explore the many options available from Harbor Breeze Long Beach whale watching Cruises. We know you won’t soon forget the wildlife you might see, from the humpback whale to the killer whale, fin whale to the minke whale, and so much more.

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