42 Places & When to Go


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Ah, whales: these majestic, enormous marine mammals have been immortalized in our culture in everything to Moby Dick to Finding Nemo. There was once a whole industry devoted to murdering them; now there’s a movement devoted to saving them. Any way you look at it, we’ve been obsessed with whales, for like, a really long time.

California is the best whale watching destination in the United States, and it’s also the first: whale watching as an organized activity dates back to 1950 when the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego was declared a public spot for the observation of Gray Whales.

Each year, about 20,000 gray whales make an epic 12,000-mile round trip journey from the Bering Sea all the way down the Pacific coast to Baja Peninsula, Mexico.

This annual swim makes the entire California coast a perfect place to witness one of the most amazing wildlife migrations on the planet. And in this post, you’ll discover the best destinations for whale watching in California, plus everything you need to know to plan your trip!

Psst: Planning a California coast road trip? We’ve got a few other posts you’ll want to take a look at, or click here to see all of our California travel guides.

We’ve also created a free, printable Highway One road trip itinerary! Most of the best places to go whale watching are also some. of the best places to stop along the Pacific Coast Highway. Tie them all together in one epic trip with this itinerary!

Printable Highway One Itinerary

This FREE printable Highway One itinerary will help guide you on your road trip! Plus, we’ve included our San Francisco walking tour, and we’ll send you some helpful tips to plan your trip.

We also have a Highway One podcast episode! A humanist cult, a Danish hideaway, a gravitational anomaly, towering trees, a spoiled rich kid’s castle, clothing-optional hot springs, and the cutest (and weirdest) animals imaginable: in this episode, we cover everything you need to plan your trip up the California Coast – and all the weird history you never knew along the way.

Listen below or just click here! Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes.

Humpback Whale in Monterey Bay, California.
Humpback Whale in Monterey Bay, California. You can see several kinds of whales in California, including humpbacks!

California Whale Watching FAQ’s

Before you pack your binoculars and head out in search of whales, you might have a few questions about whale watching in California. We’ve covered everything you’ll need to know before your trip!

Which kinds of whales can be seen in California?

There are a wide variety of whales that make their way past the California coast on their annual journey! Here are some of the giant sea puppies you might see paddling their way past you on your whale watching excursion:

The largest migration and most commonly spotted whale in California, Gray Whales can reach lengths of 45′ and are gray with white mottling. They migrate slowly and blow 3-5 times before fluking up and diving for 2-7 minutes – which makes them easy to spot!

Gray whales may travel alone or in pods with up to 10 whale buddies. Gray whales start swimming north from Mexico in January, generally passing the coast off of San Diego in February and March when they return to their summer home. You’ll spot them closest to the shore when traveling south, in particular between Monterey and San Diego.

The incredible Blue Whale is the largest animal ever to live on earth – EVER – reaching lengths of 80 to 100′ with a blow of up to 30′.  Sadly, Blue Whales are endangered with only about 10,000 existing in the world – 2,200 of which can be seen in California.

To see a Blue whale, wait until spring and summer between July and October, when several hundred Blue whales migrate into southern California waters to feed – not unlike my family descending upon our favorite Indian Buffet on our annual trip to my wife’s hometown.

These adorable black-and-white pandas of the sea are a rare sight, as only about 200 Orcas have been identified off the coast of California. You’ll typically see Orcas in pods of 8-20, or possibly up to 100.

By the way, don’t let their nickname scare you – although they may hunt Gray Whales, California Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, and Elephant Seals, they’re probably not going to hurt you unless you capture them, keep them locked in a cage, and force them to perform for crowds of people (ahem).

Although they are an endangered species due to being hunted to near extinction, the Humpback whale can still be seen off the coast of central California between May and November.

We’ve heard reports of curious, friendly Humpback whales approaching a boat to circle and rub up against it, spyhop within several feet of the boat, roll on its side and extend a flipper toward the boat, and even tilt its head with an eye open to throw a suspicious look at everyone on board. To which I say, I would literally die, that is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.

A fast-travelling whale that can typically only be seen far offshore, the Fin whale is the second-largest species on Earth – after the majestic Blue Whale, Queen of Whales – reaching lengths of up to 85′.

Known as the Greyhound of whales, their slender body is built like a racing yacht and can surpass the speed of the fastest ocean steamship. So don’t blink, or you might miss one zooming by!

A comparatively small baleen whale reaching only 30′ in length (“small“), Minke Whales do not have a visible blow and usually exhibit erratic surfacing patterns, making them harder to spot without the help of a guide. If you do see one, they are can be identified by their large dorsal fin and dark body.

Street art in Morro Bay, California.
Whale mural at Otter Rock Cafe in Morro Bay, California

When is California whale watching season?

Whale watching is a year-round activity in California – no matter what time of year you plan your trip, your chances of spotting a whale are high!

However, timing your visit to overlap with seasonal whale migration periods will give you the best opportunities for viewing these giant creatures.

In the winter, around December, gray whales, humpback whales, and orcas head south in search of warmer water. And then during the spring, they come back north again to enjoy the warm weather. Not unlike roughly half the population of Florida.

What that means is that you’ll get the best opportunity for seeing migrating gray whales, orcas, and humpback whales in California between December and April.

If you visit between May and September, you’ll get a chance to see blue whales and finback whales; and minke whales can be seen from October through December.

  • California Travel Tip: In my opinion as a born-and-raised Californian, the best time to take a California road trip is in February & March! The winter rains clear out and give way to pleasant warm weather, wildflower season, vibrantly green hills, gushing waterfalls, and both the annual Monarch butterfly migration as well as elephant seal pupping season that just happens to overlap with the seasonal whale migration in both location & time of year! You’ll be able to see all three of these California wildlife stars in many of the destinations included below.
Whale watching tour in California
You don’t need a boat or a whale watching tour to spot whales in California, but we do recommend them if you want to see them up close. Original photo credit

Do I need a boat to go whale watching in California?

Absolutely not! You’ll be able to spot whales spouting, breaching, and sometimes even fluking from land even at a far distance. And if you’ve got a decent pair of binoculars like these, you may even be able to identify the type of whale – here’s a guide on how to identify whales.

That said, the best whale watching experience by far is up close and personal, with a guide who can help you identify whales and can safely take you close enough to see the whale in detail.

We’ve included options for both land and boat-based whale watching for each destination below.

What should I wear whale watching in California?

If you’re planning to go whale watching on land, you don’t need anything special other than a good pair of binoculars!

But if you go on a whale watching tour, there are a few things that will make your experience a lot more enjoyable:

  • Warm Layers: Not only is much of the California Coast notoriously chilly, but the Pacific Ocean is a freezing cold abyss of pure ice, and its ocean spray is … not pleasant. Assume that it will feel 10 degrees colder and much windier out on the sea. Bring a warm layer and a rain jacket to prevent yourself from being chilled to the bone – and maybe even a warm hat or gloves, just in case.
  • Sun Protection: You’ll be spending time outdoors with all kinds of UV rays bouncing off the water, so you’ll want to load up on sun protection! Bring a pair of sunglasses that won’t fall off your face when you peer over the boat, a hat with a string in case of wind, and a biodegradable mineral sunscreen, because if nothing else, your whale watching experience will hopefully increase your enthusiasm for ocean conservation.
  • Nausea Medication: One word: DRAMAMINE. Actually, 3 words: Non-Drowsy Dramamine. It is a LIFESAVER, whether you’re prone to seasickness or not!
  • Binoculars: We cannot overstate the importance of bringing binoculars to improve your whale watching experience! Because by the time someone passes you theirs to take a look, that giant majestic beast will have probably already disappeared back into the depths.
  • Waterproof Camera: Sure, maybe your phone will work just fine, but maybe you’re too clumsy to be trusted with not dropping an expensive tiny computer into the ocean (lookin’ at you, my darling wife). This waterproof action camera is way cheaper than a GoPro or phone and, most importantly, comes with a wristband.

What is the best time of day to go Whale Watching?

You’ll be able to see whales all day long, but the clearest weather and best whale sightings usually occur during morning hours.

How much do whale watching tours cost?

In California, whale watching tours range from about $20 per person up to around $100, depending on what’s included, the size of the boat, and how long your tour lasts.

Personally, we prefer smaller, conservation-focused eco-friendly tours that include a snack, so we’ve done the research to find a few good options at each of the spots recommended below.

And on that note…

Where to go Whale Watching in California

Here are the best places for whale watching in California. We’ve included suggestions for both Northern California whale watching and whale watching in Southern California!

Point Arena Lighthouse, one of the best Pacific Coast Highway stops on a California Road Trip and an excellent place for whale watching in California.
Behind me is Point Arena Lighthouse, one of the best Pacific Coast Highway stops on a California Road Trip and an excellent place for whale watching in California.

Mendocino

Take the Pacific Coast Highway all the way up north, and a few hours past San Francisco you’ll arrive in Mendocino, a beautiful coastal town and one of California’s best wine countries! This is one of our favorite places to take a weekend getaway, as well as one of the best places to go whale watching in California.

Along the way from Baja to Alaska, the whales do a swim-by off the Mendocino Coast, offering unforgettable opportunities to see them spouting, breaching, and diving as they make their annual journey north.

  • Travel Tip: Plan your trip around March to enjoy the Mendocino Whale Festivals! The towns of Mendocino, Little River, and Fort Bragg all host special events, including walks, talks, and special boat charters.

High elevation vantage points along the coast are good spots to view whales, particularly on calm mornings. Favorite spots near town include coast-hugging trails in Mendocino Headlands State Park, and at the scenic Point Arena Lighthouse.

Here are. a few more spots to go whale watching in Mendocino:

Travel Tip: To take full advantage of the beautiful Mendocino coastline, we recommend booking an AirBnB with stunning coastal views. You can walk to Mendocino Headlands State Park right from this budget-friendly cottage, or just stay in and whale-watch from almost every room in this beautiful oceanfront cottage! Check out our Mendocino weekend getaway guide to make the most of your trip.

Whale watching in San Francisco, California
You’re unlikely to see a whale swim underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s not unheard of. (Psst: this phenomenal view, excluding my adorable wife, can be seen at Battery Spencer!)

San Francisco & the Bay Area

Yep, you can go whale watching in the San Francisco Bay Area – right near where we live (in Oakland)! Although the occasional whale finds its way right under the Golden Gate Bridge into the San Francisco Bay, the best whale watching near San Francisco is actually outside of the city.

The Farallon Islands

During the summer and fall seasons, you can book a guided tour to the Farallon Islands, a group of remote uninhabited islands 27 miles off the coast of San Francisco where humpbacks, blue whales, sperm whales, and orcas feed.

You can book a guided tour with the Oceanic Society. Whale watching cruises to the Farallon Islands typically leave San Francisco’s Pier 39 at 8 a.m. and return by mid-afternoon.

In addition to whales, you’ll have a chance to see many other marine critters, including endangered and threatened species, in the islands and surrounding waters.

Point Reyes

No tour needed to see whales at Point Reyes: from January through April, you can see hundreds of gray whales migrating within a mile of Point Reyes as they make their way from the Arctic to Baja.

94% of migrating Pacific gray whales pass by Point Reyes, and in January, over 1,000 swim by every single day! Humpback whales also might be seen moving in small pods here from November through March.

Point Reyes is a bit of a schlep from San Francisco, about an hour’s drive north in Marin County. But it’s well worth the trip: you’ll find some of the Bay Area’s best hiking, fresh oyster farms, a stunning protected National Seashore, a Cyprus tree tunnel, and even a creepy shipwreck! We’ve got more details to make it into the perfect day trip in this post.

The best spots to see whales in Point Reyes are the Point Reyes Lighthouse and Chimney Rock.

Note that during peak season (December through March), access to the tip of Point Reyes is limited and there are bus shuttles running between parking lots and viewing areas.

Other spots for whale watching near San Francisco

On calm days with little wind, you can pretty much head out to any high spot along the coast and watch for whales! Rule of thumb: if there’s a lighthouse, chances are there are also whales.

Here are a few more whale watching spots near San Francisco:

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is perhaps best known for its hippie surf scene, beach boardwalk amusement park. We’re also huge fans of its extremely weird themed museums, gravitational anomalies, neon green banana slugs, and excellent coffee – more on those lesser-known attractions in this post.

That said, if you visit primarily for whale watching, however, you will not be disappointed.

Migrating grays, blues, and humpbacks can all be seen off the coast at different times of the year. Dolphins, sea otters, and seals are observed year-round making Santa Cruz a great destination no matter what time of year you visit!

Your best bet for whale watching in Santa Cruz is to take a guided tour, but you might also be able to catch a sighting from land at Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz. If you don’t see a whale, there’s a good chance you’ll see a monarch butterfly during their migration season!

The lighthouse is also home to one of the first surfing museums in the world, which makes me feel seen as a Californian who grew up surfing.

Whale Breeching in Monterey on a California Highway One Road Trip
If you visit Monterey during the spring, there’s a good chance you’ll see gray whales migrating in the Pacific ocean!

Monterey Bay

Known for its world-class aquarium and ocean conservation efforts, Monterey Bay is one of the best places to see marine life in the world! A kayak through Monterey Bay will introduce you to the many resident otters and sea lions floating and diving through the kelp forests, and this is also one of the best places to scuba dive in Northern California.

You’ll also get a chance to see the kelp forest and all of its resident marine life at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which absolutely lives up to the hype and is WELL worth the trip.

  • Recommended Whale Watching Tour: Departing from Monterey Old Fisherman’s Wharf, this tour will also give you a great point to spot sea lions as you go in and out of the harbor. The tour takes you into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary where whales are spotted almost every day. The tour lasts 3-4 hours and is hosted by a marine biologist who explains conservation efforts in place to protect the whales and other wildlife in the area.

As far as whales, Monterey Bay is one of the best places to see gray whales in Northern California. There are two seasons for whale watching in Monterey Bay. Visit from mid-December through mid-April to see gray whales, dolphins and orcas as they migrate south, or visit from mid-April through mid-December to see humpback whales, blue whales, dolphins, and orcas.

Visitors to the area can get a good view of the whales from shore as they come to feed in the Monterey Submarine Canyon, which is where most whale watching tours embark from, as well as at Point Lobos Natural State Preserve.

  • Travel Tip: Point Lobos is an excellent park for wildlife lovers, and marine wildlife is plentiful here! Plan to spend a couple of hours wandering the scenic nature trails and tide-pooling, and be sure to pay a visit to the Whalers Cabin & Museum to learn about California’s whaling history.

Here’s a complete list of spots to look for whales in Monterey:

The Central Coast

The wide stretch of California coastline known as the Central Coast technically stretches all the way from just south of the Bay Area and San Francisco to just north of Los Angeles, but when many locals refer to the Central Coast they’re typically thinking of Big Sur and San Luis Obispo county.

San Luis Obispo County

SLO county, as we locals know it, is one of the best places to visit in California for whale watching – and also surfing, wine tasting, beach-bumming, and a zillion more deeply California activities. We’ve got a huge guide to places to visit on the Central Coast to help you plan your trip!

  • Side Note: This is where I grew up! I’m from Morro Bay, one of the many charming little coastal towns along Highway One. Growing up, whales were a common sight during migration season. Also, I met a dolphin the very first time I went surfing, knew a local seal by name (Rusty), and walked past a bay filled with baby otters on my morning commute. I’m a walking California stereotype. #blessed BTW, we’ve got a whole post about things to do in Morro Bay if you’ll be in the area!

There are three species of whale commonly sighted in SLO county: gray whales, blue whales and humpback whales. Depending on the species, these whales can be found breaching, blowing and lobtailing (which is a fun word for tail slapping) year-round.

The most common of these three by far – which should be no surprise by this point – are gray whales, seen on their southward migration between December and February and north March to May. Blue whale and humpback whales are rare, but can be spotted in April.

For the best viewing potential, book a whale-watching tour from Avila Beach or Morro Bay. 

San Luis Obispo county’s coastline has no shortage of sweeping ocean views, which are all excellent spots for viewing whales. Bring your binoculars to a relaxing day at the beach and stroll along the piers in Cayucos, Shell Beach, Avila Beachor Pismo Beach (and don’t forget to pick up cinnamon rollssee our guide for more tips).

Here are a few specific places to go whale watching by land:

Big Sur

Although Big Sur is technically a town, when locals say Big Sur we’re usually referring to the 90-mile stretch of coast between Hearst Castle and Carmel – some of the most beautiful coastline in the entire world. 

Arguably the most famous stop along Highway One, Big Sur is the oldest and most historic stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway as has a reputation for attracting quirky counter-culture thinkers and artists – you can learn more about its weird history (including cults, nude hot springs, and Hunter S. Thompson) in our Highway One podcast episode.

Humpback Whales can sometimes be from the highway turnouts throughout Big Sur, so keep an eye out for signs of whale activity whenever you can see the coast. On weekend mornings in January & February at the vista point mile marker 37 (just north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park), keep an eye out for a California State Parks ranger who will help with whale watching and California condor spotting.

There are a few spots in particular that are worth a stop:

  • Point Sur State Historic Park, at the historic Point Sur Lighthouse
  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park at Vista Point, where you’ll also find a beautiful life-sized grey whale mosaic made from granite. Don’t forget to stop and walk the short Waterfall Overlook Trail to view McWay Falls plunging 80 feet into the ocean below!
  • At the junction of Partington Ridge and Highway One is a deep submarine canyon where Humpback Whales are seen on a regular basis.
  • If you don’t mind a climb, we’ve spotted whale activity from high up on the cliffs while hiking the Vicente Flat trail from Kirk Creek Campground.
View of an ocean cove on Santa Cruz Island Channel Islands National Park in Southern California
The view from Santa Cruz Island, in the Channel Islands off of the coast of Los Angeles, are well worth the boat ride and hike it takes to see them! Keep an eye out for whales swimming between the islands and the mainland. Original photo credit

Los Angeles & Nearby

Los Angeles’ coastline is a primo spot for whale watching, as whales cruise between the mainland, near Oxnard and the Ventura Coast, and the Channel Islands offshore. 29 of the 78 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises in the world have been spotted near the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary!

That makes the Los Angeles area one of the best places to go whale watching in California, all the way from Santa Barbara down to South Bay and Long Beach.

  • Travel Tip: Spend a day on a whale watching adventure with a day trip to the Channel Islands for a hike – we’ve got more details in our SoCal hiking guide!

Up north of Los Angeles near Santa Barbara, The Port Hueneme Pier offers sweeping views of the coastline all the way out to the Channel Islands – offering the perfect viewpoint for whales as they pass between California’s coast and the Channel Islands! Whales and other marine critters are typically seen from the end of the pier, although you might spot a few as you relax on the sandy beach.

In Ventura, you’ll find whales at Surfer’s Point, off Figueroa Street – as well as both surfers. and windsurfers enjoying the breeze! Stroll along the promenade, the beach, and Ventura Pier with an eye out for whales and other marine animal friends.

Here are a few more spots to look for whales from shore north of Los Angeles:

Further down the coast as you get into Los Angeles proper and head south, there are more whale watching hotspots:

Looking for whales in Newport Beach, California
Looking for whales in Newport Beach, California. (Tip: Bring your own binoculars so you don’t have use one of these!)

Orange County

In between Los Angeles and San Diego sits Orange County, aka the OC. If you’re anything like me, the OC is forever mentally intertwined with this song. But it’s ALSO famous for being one of the best places to go whale watching in California! Why was that never featured in the TV show?

Both Newport Beach and Dana Point – the terminus of Highway One – are prime hotspots for whale watching. Dana Point throws an annual Festival of Whales each year in March.

Recommended Whale Watching Tours

  • This catamaran tour departs from Dana Point and has underwater viewing pods available so you can view the wildlife without disturbing the eco-system. At the end of the tour they send you off with a complimentary triple-fudge brownie, YUM!
  • Feel the need for speed? This tour is on board a custom-built RIB that holds a maximum of 15 passengers, it will travel up to 14 miles from Newport Beach in order to get the best sightings. The boat doesn’t just jet along, it cruises so as not to disturb the wildlife. Dolphins will come close enough that you could touch them, but don’t touch! Keep a safe distance and let them do their thing in peace.
View of the cliffs and the ocean in Torres Pines State Park, one of the places to go both whale watching AND hiking near San Diego!

San Diego

Visit this southern California city from mid-December to mid-March to get your chance to view thousands of gray whales migrating from chilly Alaskan waters south to warm waters in Baja, California.

Peak viewing opportunities occur in mid-January when as many as eight whales pass by per hour. “Whale Watch Weekend” programs in January and February include presentations by whale experts!

Plan for winter viewing at Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma Peninsula, where the 40- to 50-foot mammals pass the lighthouse and underwater observatory. While you’re there, don’t miss the tidepools, too.

But you can also go whale watching in San Diego earlier in the year! Blue whales can be spotted off the coast of San Diego mid-June through September.

Changes in ocean temperatures and the abundance of krill over the past few years have recently attracted more blue whales to San Diego’s coast than ever before. But since blue whales swim further out to sea than their grey whale cousins, to spot them you’ll want to book boat trip – you’re much less likely to see them from shore.

  • Recommended Whale Watching Tour: History nerds and whale lovers, unite! Step on board ‘The America’, a replica of a historic sailing schooner from 1851, for a tour headed up by an expert guide who will also point out US Navy sites as you pass. They also offer a whale sighting guarantee, if you don’t spot any whales you get a complimentary ticket to return another time. They also have a ‘No Seasickness’ guarantee!

Here are a few specific places to go whale watching in San Diego:

Map: Where to go Whale Watching in California

We’ve created a map of where to go whale watching in California! Bookmark this post, or save the map to your phone to come back to it later.

Reading in a cabin in Lake Tahoe.
This book actually is not about a historic whaling disaster, but it IS about a historic sea exploration disaster, which to Lia is just as exciting.

Recommended Reading

True story: the history of the whaling industry is FASCINATING, and Lia is weirdly obsessed with it. There’s adventure! Disaster! Cannibalism! Corruption! Exploration! Men driven by bloodlust running ships into giant glaciers in the arctic and then starving to death slowly (and sometimes also eating each other)! All in the pursuit of whale fat, money, and 1800’s macho-dude glory.

Whaling was like, the most metal thing ever back in the day, and there’s a whole bunch of books that just get INTO it.

Here are two we recommend, plus a book that is NOT about the history of whaling:

  • In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

The real-life horror story that inspired Moby Dick is WAY more interesting than Moby Dick! In 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale, leaving the desperate crew to drift for more than ninety days in three tiny boats. There’s disaster, survival, cannibalism, and really pissed-off whales.

Winner of the National Book Award, this book is a fantastic saga of survival and adventure. Although the book’s history focuses on Nantucket, it’s a fascinating peek into the lore of whaling culture and history!

Buy it on Amazon or support local booksellers by purchasing through Bookshop.

  • Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America

The whole, sordid, epic history of the “iron men in wooden boats” who built an industrial empire through the pursuit of whales. Few things can capture the sheer danger and desperation (read: idiocy and greed) of men on the deep sea as dramatically as whaling.

Eric Jay Dolin begins his vivid narrative with Captain John Smith’s botched whaling expedition to the New World in 1614. He then chronicles the rise of a burgeoning industry―from its brutal struggles during the Revolutionary period to its golden age in the mid-1800s when a fleet of more than 700 ships hunted the seas and American whale oil lit the world, to its decline as the twentieth century dawned.

This sweeping social and economic history provides rich and often fantastic accounts of the men themselves, who mutinied, murdered, rioted, deserted, drank, scrimshawed, and recorded their experiences in journals and memoirs. Containing a wealth of naturalistic detail on whales, Leviathan is the most original and stirring history of American whaling in many decades.

Buy it on Amazon or support local booksellers by purchasing through Bookshop.

  • Watching Giants: The Secret Lives of Whales

Who says books about whales all have to be dramatic odes to murder and machismo? Personal, anecdotal, and highly engaging, Watching Giants opens a window on a world that seems quite like our own, yet is so different that understanding it pushes the very limits of our senses.

Elin Kelsey’s colorful first-person account, drawing from her rich, often humorous, everyday experiences as a mother, a woman, and a scientist, takes us to the waters of the Gulf of California. We encounter humpback whales that build nets from bubbles, gain a disturbing maternal perspective on the dolphin-tuna issue, uncover intimate details about whale sex, and contemplate the meaning of the complex social networks that exist in the seas.

What emerges alongside these fascinating snapshots of whale culture is a dizzying sense of the tremendous speed with which we are changing the oceans’ ecosystems–through overfishing, noise pollution, even real estate development. Watching Giants introduces a world of immense interconnectivity and beauty–one that is now facing imminent peril.

Buy from Amazon or support local booksellers by purchasing through Bookshop.


The entire coast of California is the perfect place for whale watching all spring long as these gentle giants make their 12,000 round-trip journey from Alaska to Mexico and back. So grab your binoculars and head to the nearest high coastal bluff! Happy whale watching!

Have you ever see a whale? Which kind of whale are you most hoping to see? Let us know in the comments below!

Psst: Planning a California coast road trip? We’ve got bunch of other posts you’ll want to take a look at featuring many of the best places to go whale watching in California covered in this post. Take a look at the posts below, or browse all of our California posts!

We’ve also created a free, printable Highway One road trip itinerary! Most of the best places to go whale watching are also some. of the best places to stop along the Pacific Coast Highway. Tie them all together in one epic trip with this itinerary!

Printable Highway One Itinerary

This FREE printable Highway One itinerary will help guide you on your road trip! Plus, we’ve included our San Francisco walking tour, and we’ll send you some helpful tips to plan your trip.

We also have a Highway One podcast episode! A humanist cult, a Danish hideaway, a gravitational anomaly, towering trees, a spoiled rich kid’s castle, clothing-optional hot springs, and the cutest (and weirdest) animals imaginable: in this episode, we cover everything you need to plan your trip up the California Coast – and all the weird history you never knew along the way.

Listen below or just click here! Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes.

Psst: Did you find this post helpful? save it for later on Pinterest!

Our Top Travel Tips & Resources

Here are our favorite travel tips & resources for saving money and planning travel logistics! For more tips, check out our complete guide to trip planning.

  • Face Masks: Scientific consensus demonstrates wearing face masks protects both yourself and those around you from viral spread! We love these reusable face masks because they’re ethically made with sustainable materials and budget-friendly.
  • Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Skyscanner or Kayak. Money-saving tips: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on only on a budget airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
  • Accommodations: We usually stay in mid-range boutique hotels or private rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to book hotels (we love their flexible cancellation policy) and Hostelworld to book hostels (low deposit, easy change/cancellation, and excellent reviews). Depending on the destination, we also love staying in AirBnBs. We’ve also used TrustedHousesitters as both hosts and travelers.
  • Travel Insurance: We always, always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance for international trips, and we STRONGLY suggest it – visit our Travel Insurance Guide to find out why. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance.
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the travel guides on the CDC website to research recommended medications and vaccines for international trips. We always recommend getting every vaccine recommended by the CDC! You can get them at your primary care doctor’s office or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Tours: We love booking guided tours, especially food tours and walking tours, to get a local’s perspective and a history lesson while sight-seeing! We book our tours using Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to figure out how to get from place to place using public transit. When we book a rental car, we use Kayak to find the best deal.
  • Luggage Storage: Checking out early or taking advantage of a long layover? Use Stasher to safely store your luggage while you’re running around. Be sure to use the code PW10 for 10% off your booking!
  • What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and many more. Take a look at all of our packing guides!

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