Dolphin and Whale Watching Cruises in Los Angeles

January isn’t typically thought of as a top month to vacation in Los Angeles (except perhaps for fans of the Rose Bowl Parade). This winter, though, there’s such a plethora of whales and dolphins off the coast of Los Angeles, that it’s worth the trip for marine mammal lovers. My friends at MomsLA have proof, in video form, of the amazing quantity of dolphins and whales cavorting right off shore. It’s a great season for dolphin and whale watching cruises in Los Angeles!

MomsLA, a local blogging group of which I’m a proud member, was invited by Aquarium of the Pacific to see those dolphins and fin whales. Skip to about 1:20 for the whales; that’s a special sighting. These are fin whales: they are the second largest mammals on earth, right after blue whales. This video captures some of the thrill of seeing whales right off a tour boat — the rocking of the camera even made me feel that little bit of queasiness I’m prone to while on the open water.

Also off the coast of Los Angeles area this winter are a large amount of orcas, commonly known as killer whales.  The Aquarium of the Pacific’s whale research biologist, Kera Mathes, says she has never seen this many killer whales off the coast of Southern California before. She told the LA Times, “There were so many it was hard to get a good count.” Other tour boats reported having seen between 20 and 40 at a time, swimming along the Long Beach/Dana Point coast. Dolphins, fin whales and California gray whales are also swimming along the coastal area around Los Angeles, making for the most exciting winter whale watch cruises Los Angeles has ever had. The last time orcas were seen right off the coast of Southern California was 2005.

blue whale fluke whale watch cruise (dolphinsafari.com)A whale-watching trip is, needless to say, just one of the many fun things to do in Los Angeles.  Seeing whales flip their tails before a deep dive is an unparalleled thrill, and one that’s typically associated with travel to Alaska, Baja Mexico, or Hawaii. These whales aren’t going to stay here forever, though. Anyone planning to travel to Los Angeles in the winter is advised that the migratory patterns of gray whales is such that chartered whale watching cruises never guarantee a whale or dolphin sighting. However, this month, it seems to be as close to a guarantee as you can get.

Whale watching cruise companies in the Los Angeles area include the following:

  • Cabrillo Whalewatch — Three locations for daily departure: Long Beach, Redondo Beach, and San Pedro. Departure times vary and the tours end at the end of march each year.  Cabrillo Whalewatch tours include a naturalist onboard and are sponsored by both the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and the local chapter of the American Cetacean Society.
  • Davey’s Locker — Newport Beach, one of Southern California’s swankier beach towns, is home to this whale watch cruise. One 65-foot boat leads the tours, while other boats are used for rentals and chartered fishing trips.
  • Dolphin Safari — my family participated in one of Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safaris a couple of years ago, and we all loved it. His catamaran’s two underwater viewing pods make this a wonderfully unique way to see the marine mammals up close and underwater.
  • Harbor Breeze Cruises — This is the whale watch cruise company associated with the Aquarium of the Pacific, and all cruises depart from Long Beach. There are two or three whale watch tours a day until April, annually.
  • Newport Landing Whale Watching — Like Davey’s Locker, this is based in Newport Beach. However, there’s both general admission and private tours available, and nonrefundable deposits are required for group bookings.

Blue whale mom and calf southern california (dolphinsafari.com)Now, not everyone is comfortable on boats. Some people get nervous, others, seasick (though Bonine helps with the latter). The National Park Service states that the best onshore place to view whales is the Point Dume area of Malibu, due to its proximity and elevation. Over 200 California Gray Whales have been seen off the shores of Los Angeles this January alone. And the dolphins? Too numerous, and frisky, to count! Anyone traveling to Los Angeles this winter should consider taking advantage of this unexpected boon, and book a whale watching cruise. It will add a touch of adventure to a Southern California vacation.


10 Responses to “Dolphin and Whale Watching Cruises in Los Angeles”

  1. 1
    Caryn B says:

    we’ve been twice in the last week. Can you believe it? Over the weekend it was really rocky YIKES! I definitely recommend warm clothing, seasickness remedies, and an SLR camera! : )

  2. 2

    I haven’t been, but my kids would love it. Thanks for this great resource!

  3. 3

    That’s a definite Wow!

  4. 4
    Desiree Eaglin says:

    We went whale watching with Davey’s Locker in Newport/Balboa in January 2011 and I went last week (and you can hear me being a goober on the MomsLA video haha) last week with Harbor Breeze Cruises and The Aquarium of the Pacific. I highly preferred the tour with the Aquarium over the tour with Davey’s Locker! On every tour there are Aquarium guides alongside of you, ready and willing to answer any questions. It is so cool! That and the Harbor Breeze Boats are nicer :)

  5. 5
    Silvia says:

    I wanted to go so badly!!! It seems you all have a wonderful time, whales are really something aren’t they?

  6. 6
    Sharlene says:

    We went twice this season already with Dana Wharf Whale Watching and I want to go again! Such an amazing experience.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Margo says:

    I have never done this. Every time I’m somewhere with a whale watching season, I’m there in the wrong season. I’m trying not to read deeper meaning into this. Your friend’s video is amazing!

  9. 9
    Catherine says:

    Spotting a whale in its natural habitat is one of the most amazing sights. A few years ago I was driving along the coast of Hermanus, south of Cape Town and saw a whale. Never forgotten it!

  10. 10

    amazing!! i so want to do this.

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