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.

Orca, the Killer WhaleOrca, the Killer Whale

With over 70 miles of coastline to offer, it's little wonder that whale watching in San Diego is so popular. At the height of the whale watching season there can be a few hundred whales passing through these waters on a single day. If you're planning a San Diego vacation, be sure to take one of the whale watching cruises, like those offered by Hornblower Cruises.

Alternatively you can usually see whales from the shoreline, if you know where to go. 

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Best Time for San Diego Whale Watching

From December through March tens of thousands of California gray whales make their migration from the chilly waters of Alaska to the warmer lagoons of Baja California in Mexico. They do this so that the female California grays can give birth to their young in better conditions, and to allow them to grow before making the return journey. The time when the most whales are passing by San Diego is the middle of January.

During migration the whales travel over 5000 miles, the longest distance that any mammal migrates on an annual basis. Many come within a few miles of the San Diego shoreline, and a whale watching trip lets you get right up-close. Ever looked into the eye of a whale? That's how close, if you get lucky. But you don't have to go to sea to watch the whales, as there are some terrific shoreline viewing platforms too.

Whale watching from San Diego

Whale Watching from the San Diego Shore

A great place for whale watching from land is at the Cabrillo National Monument. This state park is on the Point Loma peninsula, and has a glass-enclosed observatory where you can watch for the whales throughout the December-March season. There are also interpretative displays.

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps (The Scripps Institution of Oceanography) puts on special exhibitions during the whale watching season. Visitors can see the whales from the aquarium's tide-pool plaza, which overlooks the ocean. It's an especially good place for a family whale watching day out, as there are educational activities for children – and you get to visit the aquarium too!

Read our page about our visit to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, also known as the La Jolla Aquarium, when we were staying in La Jolla.

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