Discovering the Adventure
California Whale Watching

California Whale Watching: A Whale of an Adventure!

Why are we so fascinated with whales? Maybe it's because they seem as curious about us as we are about them. It's whale watching season all year in California, so come along...

If you're interested in whale watching, you've come to the right place!

With at least eight species of whale sporting off its coast, Northern California has some of the best whale watching there is!

And there are so many venues available to help you experience these gargantuan creatures who enamor us so.

Take a boat out of one of the coastal harbors and go to the whales, or let them come to you while you keep your feet firmly planted on terra firma.

Even get a bird's-eye view from aloft if you choose!

Whichever way you chose to do a little whale watching, there are whales of one variety or another available up and down the California coast all year round.

And to help you find the best hotel rates along the Northern California coast while you're enjoying the whales:

California Whale Watching: Loquacious Leviathans of the Deep

When you think of California whale watching, you probably are thinking of the amazing migration of the California Gray Whales.

Each year - from mid-winter to late spring - they slowly make their way down the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California to reach Baja.

Then, in just a few months, they turn around and make the trip back - the longest migration of any creature on earth.

Another spectacular beastie off Northern California shores are the Killer Whales or Orcas - known to a lot of us as Shamu from SeaWorld or Willie from the movie Free Willie.

These tuxedo-ed mammals are easily recognized by their stark black and white appearance, and their playful nature. They can be seen year-round and are often spotted spy-hopping, leaping, and generally having a great time as if they were putting on a show for us.

California Whale Watching Offers more Variety than you Might Imagine

There are several other species of whale off the coast of Northern California, and there's California whale watching of some sort or other all year long.

The largest whales - in fact, the largest animal ever - are the Blue Whales. (Ever wonder why those little cartoon whales are so often colored blue?)

Seen off the coast of California in the summer and fall, they can be identified by their tall, narrow blow, their size, and their coloring, which appears from light blue to bright blue when seen through the water.

Let's not forget another of our behemoths - the Humpback Whales! These guys, too, are playful - jumping, breaching, slapping the water with their fins as they hang about (from April to December), or head for their southern breeding grounds in the late winter.

These are the guys for whom the term whale song was coined because of the regular and predictable sounds they make when communicating with each other.

Remember Humphrey, the Humpback Whale, who apparently lost his way and ended up in the Sacramento River for so many weeks? Follow the Sacramento River to Rio Vista - there's a monument to Humphrey there!

The following whales are less frequently spotted by the amateur whale watcher, but they're very much a part of the NorCal whale scene!

  • Minke Whale - Minkes are around all year, but there are more of them in summer and fall. 
  • Fin Whale - long, sleek and streamlined, these whales are off the Northern California coast in summer and fall.
  • Baird's Beak Whale - this is a whale that spends its time in deep, offshore waters, has an indistinct blow, and tends to avoid ships.
  • Short-finned Pilot Whale - they're typically found in deeper waters, although they may come closer to shore.

California Whale Watching Isn't Only About Whales

While you're on the lookout for the big guys, keep an eye peeled for these smaller fellas as well:

  • Great White Sharks - don't get too close, though!
  • Risso's Dolphins - they look a lot like a Pilot Whale
  • Dall's Porpoise - these guys have a twin, too - they look like Orcas
  • White-sided Dolphins - We call these the Playboys of the Pacific
  • Harbor Porpoise - an in-shore porpoise that likes shallower waters
  • Elephant Seals - these are the ones with the big, bulbous noses
  • Northern Fur Seals - these are the seals of the infamous Fur Trade
  • Harbor Seals - these guys are true seals and have spotted coats
  • Sea Otters - these are the cutest little guys, so fun and playful
  • California Sea Lions - very numerous, very trainable, these fellas are the ones used for entertainment
  • Leather Back Sea Turtles - largest of all turtles, they don't have a hard bony shell

Well, we hope you've enjoyed our little tour of Northern California whale watching as much as we've enjoyed sharing it with you! Click here for some California whale watching videos you'll enjoy:

And for our tips on how to go about a California whale watching trip:

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