Whether you’re a local, visiting for your first (or fiftieth time), or simply passing through on a business trip, Orange County offers countless opportunities to see amazing marine life outside of the aquarium – sea lions, dolphins, and, of course, whales. There are a number of tours to choose from if you have time to embark on an adventure to go whale watching in Orange County. For a 2-3 hour tour, you’re sure to get your money’s worth! Or, if you’re lucky, you might just spot one off the shore while you’re visiting one of our beautiful OC beaches.
Where to go Whale Watching in Orange County
Given that we have miles of shoreline, there are a couple spots to catch a boat that will take you out to sea. The good news is that the location isn’t as important as the crew – and there are some pretty amazing ones leading these excursions. You’ll be taken up and down the coast as your captain gets information from other boats of where whales are being spotted, so don’t feel like you’ll be missing out depending on where you go. It’s a group effort, though some locations may be easier for you to get to than others. Here are the top companies to make a reservation through!
Newport Beach Whale Watching
Top rated company in Southern California, Newport Coastal Adventure boasts smaller groups and lower boats for an intimate and up close experience. Catch a boat off the Newport Beach Harbor from the Balboa Peninsula for a fast-paced and thrilling ride at speeds as fast as 30mph to see as much as you can in a couple hours. Keep up to date with the crew’s latest findings on their adventure trip log, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram for photos and video of their daily adventures!
If you’re looking more for a cruise feel on a bigger boat, check out Davey’s Locker. Not only do they offer whale watching tours, but you can also sign up for a full day or overnight trip of deep sea fishing! Serving the greater Los Angeles area, they offer both excursions year round and also depart from Newport Harbor. Keep track of their daily sightings through their whale and dolphin sightings log. They also have a year over year comparison of marine life sightings from previous years.
Dana Point Whale Watching
If you’re further out in the southern part of Orange County, check out Captain Dave’s Dana Point Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari. Another top rated whale watching excursion, Captain Dave’s also offers a guarantee – should you not see any whales or dolphins on your trip (which is very rare), you can return for one free trip within a year of your excursion! Again, it’s rare to go out and not see anything, but the offer of a free tour if you’re in that rare boat is a nice gesture. They also have a whale and dolphin sightings log to keep track of the daily sightings and to learn what you’d typically see on a tour by month.
The crew from Dana Wharf boast some of the best sportfishing, whale watching, and charters in Orange County. They offer a number of excursions – from the standard 2-ish hour whale watching tour to private tours, sunset trips, and an 8 hour ultimate whale watching trip! For a change of pace, they also offer fishing trips from half day to all day and twilight and overnight fishing excursions. Follow their calendar and daily sightings on their whale watching log.
When to go Whale Watching in Orange County
Simply checking out the trip logs of the above mentioned whale watching companies will give you an idea of what to expect. Generally speaking, there are seasons for whale watching and whale migrations, although you could spot them at any time outside of the annual events.
Gray whales can be spotted between November and April, and blue whales will show up after that, around May through November. Killer whales, or Orcas, have been seen throughout the year, but are more common in January. Finback whales also can be seen throughout the year, but the summer and fall months are when they’re more abundant. There have also been Sperm whales, Humpback whales, Minke whales, and Blue whales spotted throughout the year, but there aren’t specific seasons, per se, that you’d be able to see them.
BONUS Annual Whale Watching Event
Around the first 2 weekends every March, Dana Point has a Festival of Whales! This celebration occurs during the Gray Whale migration, when they migrate 5,000 miles from Alaska to Mexico. Enjoy parades, sand sculpting competitions, music and food, along with reserving a spot on a whale watching excursion.
No matter which boat you’re on or what time of year you go, every tour is a new experience, so go when and as often as you can to explore the ocean waters and enjoy marine life in their natural habitat!