Pacific Coast Highway Wildlife:
See Whales and Sea Lions!

The Pacific Coast Highway wildlife on and off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington is one of the highlights of any trip.

Humpback whale off the California coastHumpback Whale off the California Coast

The Pacific Coast Highway offers so much by way of spectacular scenery, beaches, good food and wine, yet for most people it's seeing something of the Pacific Coast Highway wildlife that makes for those special moments. 

To see a humpback whale breaching the surface of the Pacific Ocean, spouting or slapping its tail on the water, reminds us of the power and majesty of the natural world. No wonder whale watching, in California especially, is one of the most popular activities all along the Pacific Coast.

If you can, you should try to time your visit so you're there during California Whale Watching Season. We've done just that, and you can read our accounts of a Hornblower whale watching cruise in San Diego, a whale-watching cruise from Santa Barbara, and of our Dana Point whale watching sunset cruise.

Newport Landing Whale Watching does year-round whale-watching from Newport Beach in Orange County which is just south of Los Angeles. We'll definitely be trying them out when we're next in Newport Beach

Check out these whale watching coupons cutting the cost of a Newport Landing Whale Watching cruise in Newport Beach to $20 ($25 weekends and holidays)

Humpback Whale tail, photo (c) Donna Dailey, https://www.pacific-coast-highway-travel.com/Pacific-Coast-Highway-Wildlife.htmlSpotting the Tail of a Humpback Whale

Photo (c) Donna Dailey

You'll see seals, elephant seals, and sea lions too, wherever you go. Some of the easiest to see are those that hang out in popular tourist spots like Fisherman's Wharf at Monterey, and at San Francisco too.

You'll also get close-up views of magnificent elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Beach, just north of Hearst Castle, and one of the most amazing of the Pacific Coast Highway's wildlife experiences is a visit to the Florence Sea Lion Caves north of Florence and south of Yachats.

Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas Beach near Hearst Castle, California, photo (c) Donna Dailey, https://www.pacific-coast-highway-travel.com/Pacific-Coast-Highway-Wildlife.htmlElephant Seals at Piedras Blancas Beach

Photo (c) Donna Dailey

Yet there's as much joy to be had in observing some of the tiniest creatures you find along the coasts of Oregon, Washington and California. From March to September you'll find hummingbirds, those flying jewels, along the west coast of the United States. Little wrens too, and larger birds like graceful egrets and herons, through to the big birds of prey including bald eagles, golden eagles and turkey vultures.

Ground squirrel at La Jolla, California, photo (c) Donna Dailey, https://www.pacific-coast-highway-travel.com/Pacific-Coast-Highway-Wildlife.htmlGround Squirrel in La Jolla

Photo (c) Donna Dailey

There are mammals ranging from chipmunks and raccoons to deer and elk, while on the shoreline you can look for sea lions basking on the rocks or sea otters playing around in the waves. And beneath those waves another world lurks, a world of dolphins, humpback whales, orca whales and even blue whales. Either pack your binoculars and a good field guide or take advantage of one of the organized wildlife tours up and down the Pacific Coast.

But whatever you do and wherever you go, always look for opportunities to enjoy the Pacific Coast Highway's wonderful wildlife.

Other wildlife pages

  • Whale Watching in California

    Whale watching in California is one of the most popular things to do along the Pacific Coast Highway, in places like San Diego, San Francisco and many more.

  • Whale Watching from the San Diego Shoreline

    Whale watching trips and tours in San Diego are one of the California city's best activities but you can watch the whales from the San Diego shoreline too.

  • Whale Watching Coupons in Newport Beach

    Whale watching coupons offering a big discount are available now in Newport Beach for cheap whale watching cruises with Newport Landing Whale Watching.

  • Top Wildlife Spots on the California Coast

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel recommends some of the top wildlife spots along the California coast.

  • SeaWorld San Diego

    SeaWorld in San Diego is the original marine theme park, featuring killer whales, dolphins, shark encounters, manatee rescue, and Journey to Atlantis.

  • Santa Barbara Whale Watching

    Santa Barbara whale watching cruises in southern California can be booked through Condor Express, with whale watching trips leaving from the harbor.

  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park

    San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a partner of San Diego Zoo and offers the chance to see wildlife in its natural habitat with a wide range of safaris on offer.

  • San Diego Whale Watching

    San Diego whale watching tours like this from Hornblower Cruises let visitors get up close to see gray whales, dolphins, sea lions and other wildlife.

  • Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey, with photos

    A walk around the Point Lobos State Reserve near Monterey and Carmel provides lots of photo opportunities, especially of the Harbor Seal Birthing Area.

  • Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals Beach

    Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals Beach is near Hearst Castle, San Simeon and Cambria and is one of the best things to do when driving the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium

    The Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row is one of the top sights in Monterey and along the whole Pacific Coast Highway.

  • La Jolla Aquarium

    The La Jolla Aquarium, officially known as the Birch Aquarium at Scripps overlooks the Pacific Ocean, with sea creatures from seahorses to sharks.

  • Humpback Whale

    Seeing a humpback whale in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of California,Washington or Oregon is often the highlight of a whale-watching tour.

  • Florence Sea Lion Caves

    The Florence Sea Lion Caves are one of the best wildlife attractions along the Pacific Coast Highway, north of Florence and south of Yachats.



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