California’s coastline is the perfect spot to catch several whale migration seasons – gray whales from January through April, orcas between February and May, and humpbacks between April and December. Even from land, you’re likely to see them spouting, slapping their tails (known as “lobtailing”) or even breaching.
The Chronicle reported that humpback whale migration patterns have changed so much that local whale watching tours don’t even need to leave the Bay for a chance at spotting one. Whereas most whales used to be spotted outside of the Bay along the coast, higher ocean temps and whale populations have driven more whales into the SF Bay itself. As we enter peak humpback season, now’s the time to keep your eyes peeled for these gentle visitors.
Read on to discover where to spot some whales in and around the Bay Area!
Whale watching near San Francisco
Take off from Pier 39 and enjoy views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge on your way out to the Pacific Ocean. You can also check out the Oceanic Society, which takes groups out to the Farallon Islands April-November.
Especially from the Point Bonita Lighthouse Trail, which has some of the best ocean views in the Bay.
This is one of the tallest lighthouses in the country. It’s surrounded by fascinating tidepools and has a hostel if you want to stay overnight.
Some whale-watching excursions include the following:
South of SF on the way to Santa Cruz, this beach is also a hotspot for elephant seals year-round.
Whale watching north of SF
Point Reyes is one of the best whale viewing spots in NorCal, being that the peninsula extends further into whale territory than other spots on the coast. Stake out near Chimney Rock and the Point Reyes Lighthouse, or grab a shuttle between viewing areas. Don’t forget to spot the elephant seals at Drakes Beach!
Whale watching south of SF
Santa Cruz’s position just above the Monterey Bay makes it a key feeding point for migratory whales. Take a walk along West Cliff (Pleasure Point is a great spot) and you can watch the surfers while you’re at it. Check out Santa Cruz Whale Watching for tours.
Monterey Bay is one of the most dynamic spots for wildlife viewing in the world, where visitors can spot all kinds of whales, sea otters, seals, jellies, and more among the famous kelp forests. Don’t miss Whalefest at Moss Landing! Some good whale watching spots from land include Point Lobos and Garrapata State Park.
Featured image: Todd Cravens via Unsplash