If you’ve never had the opportunity to see whales in their natural habitat, it’s truly an experience unlike any other. While East Coast boat operators offer whale watching tours in the summer, the West Coast takes center stage for the marine mammal show during the winter. Take a look at online lists of whale sightings today San Diego charter companies often post, and you’ll realize it’s not that hard to spot humpbacks, grays or even blues if you’re in the right place. No matter if you’re a local resident or you’re planning the vacation of a lifetime, here are five destinations you can set sail from in search of some of the planet’s largest life forms.
- San Diego
Every winter, Pacific gray whales journey southward in search of warmer waters to birth their calves, fatten them up and then begin the return trip to Alaska. The last American stop on their journey is San Diego, which means you can catch them starting in December. Don’t fret if you don’t have time during the holidays, because the best whale watching San Diego has to offer lasts until April.
When gray whales leave Alaska’s waters for the world’s longest regular migration, their destination is Mexico’s Baja peninsula. While many coastal destinations offer the opportunity to whale watch while the marine mammals pass by, Mexico enjoys several consecutive months where they’re hanging around and raising their calves. Some San Diego boat charters will take you down to these ancestral breeding grounds, but make sure you have a valid passport.
- Monterey Bay
If you’re a lover of marine wildlife, Monterey Bay might be the ultimate vacation destination. Not only does the city have one of the best aquariums in the country, but it’s also home to a massive underwater canyon that’s teeming with fish, otters and other aquatic creatures. While you can enjoy whale watching all year, December offers the opportunity to see gray and blue whales at the same time.
The West Coast isn’t the only hotbed for winter whale watching. Hawaii offers some of the world’s best opportunities to see marine mammals up close, and humpbacks take the stage from December until April. Maui is the best place to see these majestic creatures during their annual visit because of its proximity to their traditional mating waters.
Much of winter’s best whale watching takes place in the Pacific, but northern Florida provides an opportunity to see one of the rarest species on the planet. Every December, the North Atlantic right whale heads to warmer waters off the coast of Jacksonville and Cape Canaveral to raise their calves. Consider yourself lucky if you’re able to see one of these marine mammals because there are fewer than 500 left.
Hit the Water This Winter
These are just five of the most popular destinations for winter whale watching, but there are plenty of other ports that provide the opportunity to see whales, dolphins, otters and other marine mammals. No matter where you go for your adventure, book your trip with an experienced charter company that knows where to find the wildlife.