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San Diego Whale Watching Tours

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been living in San Diego for 3 months already! For those of you who don’t know, San Diego is a popular whale watching destination, and definitely made our San Diego Bucket List! A few weeks ago, we decided to go on an all day 8-hour tour, since we’ve had friends go on shorter tours and not see much.

Whale Watching San Diego with Pacific Nature Tours.

After boarding the boat, we grabbed some seats and breakfast. They had a spread of bagels, fruits, and muffins. They had a soda fountain machine, where you can get your fill of included beverages! Lunch was also included, and quite delicious might I add. We had gourmet burgers with chips.

Pacific Nature Tours Included Breakfast.Pacific Nature Tours Inside of the Boat.Pacific Nature Tours Included Breakfast.Included Lunch Out in the Ocean with Pacific Nature Tours.

As we headed out, the naturalist (basically an expert in wildlife) told us what to expect. You can either sit in the back, inside, or stand in the front, where you’re the first to see most the action. The first half of the tour was uneventful. We saw some common dolphins and a shy Blue Whale far away in the distance, but not much we could take photos of. We were getting bummed out at this point thinking that we would be spending 8 hours without seeing any whales.

We eventually moved to the front of the boat since we didn’t want to miss anything. Sometimes you only get a quick glimpse. We are in their world after all!

These were my two best friends during this trip.

Whale Watching San Diego CA.

During the last four hours, things started to pick up. We saw a group of Risso Dolphins, which are rare for this area (they are more commonly sighted in Monterey). We also got a glimpse of a hammerhead shark skimming the surface. Finally during the last two hours of our tour, the whales started to appear. The Fin Whales were much closer to the boat and we also saw more Blue Whales.

Risso Dolphin - San Diego Sightseeing.Risso Dolphin - San Diego Sightseeing.

Sharks or Dolphins? :)

Risso Dolphin - What to See in San Diego.

Dolphins have a curved trailing edge on their dorsal fin, and are found in groups, while sharks have a straight trailing edge and generally travel alone.

Risso Dolphins - San Diego Attractions.

What about now? Shark or Dolphin?

Hammerhead Shark - San Diego Whale Watch Tours.

Do you see the lighter blue color? Blue whales are the largest creatures on earth. They are also most endangered out of the great whales¹ with between 10-25000 left in the world.²

Blue Whale Sighting - Whale Watching in San Diego.
Whale Watch with Pacific Nature Tours - San Diego Things to Do.Blue Whale Blow Hole - Whale Watch San Diego with Pacific Nature Tours.Fin Whale Tail Sighting with Pacific Nature Tours.Fin Whale Dorsal Fin Sighting with Pacific Nature Tours.Fin Whale Sighting with Pacific Nature Tours.
Blue Whale Tail Sighting with Pacific Nature Tours.Blue Whale Tail Sighting with Pacific Nature Tours.

The highlight of our trip was when we were surrounded by hundreds of dolphins. They were so playful and fun to watch as they swam alongside the boat.

Common Dolphin - San Diego Whale Watching Tours.Common Dolphins - San Diego Whale Watching Tour.Common Dolphins - Things to See in San Diego.
Common Dolphin in San Diego.Common Dolphin - Must See in San Diego.
Common Dolphin - Things to See in San Diego.Common Dolphins - What to See in San Diego.Common Dolphins in San Diego.

I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so it was just easier for Jacob to join me! :)

San Diego Whale Watch Tours.

In total we saw 300 Common Dolphins, 15 Risso Dolphins, 1 Hammerhead Shark, 4 Blue Whales, and 2 Fin Whales. We were so impressed how the naturalists could identify each of these creatures from far away based on their spouts or a quick glimpse of their dorsal fin.

The one thing you have to keep in mind is that you’re hoping to see these animals in their natural habitat. So unlike a zoo, you can’t always expect to see them. The captain and naturalists do a great job in finding opportunities to see these majestic animals. If you are planning on going on a whale watching tour, we highly recommend doing the all day tour to maximize your chances to see them.

Pro Tips for Whale Watching San Diego with Pacific Nature Tours:

  • Gray Whales are best sighted from Dec through April when 20,000 gray whales migrate from Alaska to Baja California to give birth to their calves.
  • Blue Whales can be sighted during mid-June through Sept when 2000 to 3000 blue whales feed off the California coast. They are the easiest to spot miles away, since they can spout water 30 ft up in the air. Blue whales are generally further out than gray whales, so book the longer excursion to see them.
  • Depending on the time of year, you’ll see different animals. Be sure to ask about what they commonly see around each season.
  • If you’re planning on shooting photos, bring the longest lens you have! We thought we could get away with shooting with our 70-200 but now we know better, and this is our current go-to wildlife lens.
  • If you’re worried about getting sea sick at all, don’t forget to take Dramamine at least one hour before so that it’s fully in your system. I took it the night before.You can also sit in the back of the boat where there is less movement and stare out in the horizon to minimize your chances of getting seasick.
  • Bring layers. Even in the summer, it can get very cold and windy out at sea.
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen since you’ll be exposed for most of the day. You can also bring a sunhat and sunglasses.
  • Bring a book! There’s a lot of waiting involved. It was nice having my kindle with a few options. Here are the books we’ve been reading lately.

Full Day Whale Watching and Nature Tour: $125 (included breakfast & lunch)

Pacific Nature Tours
1717 Quivira Rd
San Diego CA 92109


Would you go whale watching in San Diego?
Have you ever gone whale watching? If so, where?

xoxo estherJacob

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Sherry Spears

    Is it REALLY only $125 for a full day tour in California

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