Best Time for Whale Watching in San Diego


A whale is no doubt a majestic presence, and the San Diego area is one of the best places for those who want to get a sight of these giant creatures. While we could jest that something that rivals a house or a jetliner in size would be quite easy to spot, things are hardly that simple.

First, there's the fact that the ocean is pretty big itself, and whales only like to hang out and travel through specific areas. Whale watching enthusiasts can consult a number of online resources to keep track of them or exchange information with fellow enthusiasts through online forums.

However, for those who aren't whale nuts, the best option remains an organized tour.

You can probably find whale-watching ships operating most days of the year, but the best time to book one is between late winter and early spring, as the high season for spotting whales runs from December to April. Be warned, though, the schooners most tour operators use to have a somewhat limited capacity, so tickets can sell out quickly. Pre-booking some weeks in advance is highly recommended.

Summer is a second peak time for whale-watching, as the ever-popular blue whale can be seen in the San Diego area mostly between May and August

Month by Month Breakdown of Whale Activity and San Diego's Region Weather

Whales are migrating creatures and their travels are governed by the changes in the weather. Here is a month by month guide to whale activity:

  • January is a great time to see gray whales, humpback whales, and dolphins.
  • February is an even better time for gray whale sightings, as their migration patterns take them just off the coast of San Diego. There's a lesser chance to spot dolphins or humpback whales, but the possibility shouldn't be excluded.
  • March is another great month for Gray whales sightings as the whales continue their migration around the coast.
  • April brings an improvement to the weather. This is still a good month for gray whale sightings, but you'll have lower chances than in peak season. On the other hand, you might get a glance at a mother gray with her calf.
  • May is the start of the season for blue whales sighting.
  • June also gets a little warmer at 72 F and there's extremely little precipitation in the region during this time.
  • July is still a great month for the blue whale, and the best time to spot the fin whale. Other possible sightings include the usual humpback whales and dolphins.
  • The end of August is the last call at a good chance of spotting the blue whale.
  • September marks the end of the blue whale season. You might be lucky enough to spot a blue whale in September, but it's no guarantee.
  • October is far from a good month for whale spotting, although the usual humpback whales and pods of dolphins can still be encountered on a regular tour. The average height drops to 75 F.
  • November is the peak season for the humpback whale as they start their southern migration. The weather starts to get significantly colder, with average highs of 70 F and 4 rainy days in a usual year.
  • December marks the start of the Grey whale season, as they migrate. You might also see humpbacks, various other species, and dolphins. Temperatures drop to a high average of 66 F.

Whale Watching Tips for The Best Experience

Besides the season and the weather, there are a few other things to keep in mind when whale watching to make sure you make the best out of the experience

  • Choose the right time
  • Be Patient
  • Be properly equipped
  • Have your camera ready

In the very unlikely event, you won't see any whales during the trip, most tour operators offer a voucher for an additional go as compensation. This is something to look for when choosing a tour operator.

Perfect Vacation Rentals for the Best Whale Watching Experience

You will find our luxurious vacation rentals located only 26 miles from downtown San Diego, in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Emcinitas. The Parkhouse, the Penthouse, and the Seacottage make excellent accommodation choices for the best whale watching experience in San Diego.

Conveniently located just 20 minutes away from San Diego, the heart of whale watching activities, our properties are the perfect place to retreat after a long and tiring day out observing the majestic sea creatures. They are thoroughly cleaned as per CDC regulations and are ready to welcome you all-year-round.

To best experience what the San Diego area has to offer choose Cardiff Vacations!