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Add a Whale Watching Trip to your San Diego, CA Itinerary

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

Each winter more than 20,000 Gray Whales migrate from Alaska to the warm waters of Baja Mexico. This 10,000 mile plus trek is one of the longest migrations of any animal. The large kelp forests off the San Diego Coast attract these large mammals, making San Diego a great place to see them. We chose a 3 hour whale watching cruise to immerse ourselves in these magnificent creatures. There are several reputable companies that offer Whale Watching cruises. We chose Legacy because the times were convenient for us. Most offer a guarantee that you will see whales or you can cruise again at no charge.

Thing to Know Before You Go:

The best time to see gray whales is December to April, when the whales are migrating. Book your tickets in advance, especially on the weekends. Whale watching is popular! Dress in layers, the temperatures fluctuate during the trip. My favorite top layer is a 1/2 zip from Helly Hansen. The boat moves around in the swells while you are waiting for them to emerge from a dive. If you are prone to sea sickness, like I am, you may want to bring something to combat it. Two things I recommend are Dramamine Less Drowsy, 24 HR and Sea Sickness Wrist Bands. You will be out on deck searching for blow hole sprays so you will want to have a sunhat, sunglasses, and sun screen. I am loving Isdin, which is a mineral sunscreen my dermatologist recommended. Most vessels offer cold drinks and snacks for purchase. You will see more than Gray Whales. We saw a mega pod of Dolphins, two groups of Gray Whales and Seals. Humpback Whales can also be seen but they are rarer.

In the center of the Marina Basin is the bait dock.

Seals and birds congregate here waiting for a tasty morsel.

About The Gray Whales

Gray Whales are about 39 ft long and weigh about 60,000 lbs. Females give birth about once every 3 years. The newborns are about 16 ft long and nurse for 7 months. The warm shallow lagoons of Baja Mexico are the mating/birthing grounds for these giant mammals. The females are pregnant for 12 months. These pregnant females are the first to begin the migration from the Arctic Sea in Alaska to Mexico. They are followed by the adult males and females. Juveniles may not make it all the way to Mexico before turning back to Alaska.

Whales breathe air into their lungs through blowholes on the top of their heads. When the whales rise to the surface, they exhale warm moist air. That warm moist air is the mist that indicates a whale is in the water. Whales can stay underwater for about 10 minutes. They frequently surface and dive in the same location, multiple times, feeding on the ocean floor with each dive. Whale watchers are treated to a glimpse of their tail as they dive.

The mega pod of dolphins we observed were playful.

They enjoyed swimming along the boat.

We stopped into the Royal Rooster for some tacos after our whale watching trip. The Royal Rooster is located at the foot of Seaworthy Pier in the Mission Bay. These were some of the best tacos we ate in San Diego.

Have you done a Whale Watching trip on the Pacific Coast. Leave us your tips and insights in the comment section below. Ready to plan your trip to San Diego, check out for some of the best prices on hotels.

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