Experience Whale Watching Along the Pacific
Whether your vacation takes you to La Jolla, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Santa Barbara or Kauai, you can witness some of the Pacific Ocean’s greatest marvels through whale watching.
“My pick, year-round, is kayaking off La Jolla Shores,” says Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa Chef Concierge Brett Hamblen. “Located just 2.5 miles from the hotel, we have several partners that offer kayak tours and rentals, such as San Diego Bike & Kayak. The La Jolla Underwater Ecological Reserve sits off the coast of La Jolla Shores and is teeming with ocean life. Often kayakers are able to spot whales, but additionally it is prime viewing for seals, sea lions, garibaldi, dolphins and leopard sharks.”
Hamblen says guests also enjoy gray whale migration season, which runs late December through April. Excursions also take place out of migration season, but the duration of the tours are generally longer in order to take guests further off shore.
“There are several options for whale watching ocean excursions during this season, including large ferry-like services such as Hornblower San Diego or Flagship San Diego,” Hamblen says. “In addition, there are smaller private or semi-private sail boat excursions with companies such as Fun Cat Sailing and Sail San Diego.” Guests can also try to catch a glimpse from afar while hiking cliff-top trails at nearby Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
Meanwhile, guests at Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort can literally see whales from the shoreline of the resort during whale watching season, which generally starts in November and goes through April. “The humpback whales migrate here to birth their calves,” says Front Office Manager Mahealani Miles. “Once they give birth and we are further into the season, we see more activity such as fin flapping, breaching and tail flaps as they are starting to mate again. Guests enjoy just being able to see them from the shore.”
The resort also has telescopes available upon request for guests staying in the oceanfront suites. Visitors who want a closer look can pay a visit to the resort’s concierge staff to help them select the appropriate tour with one of the many reputable boat charters that operate throughout the year along the Na Pali Coast.
For Orange County guests interested in whale watching, the Pavilion/Fun Zone area of Balboa Peninsula is of interest. “This is the main hub for harbor and ocean boating activities. In particular, Davey’s Locker offers whale-watching trips a few times a day and is just 4 miles from our resort in a popular area for beach and dining activities,” says Balboa Bay Resort Concierge Emily Ripley. “Davey’s Locker has been a part of Newport Harbor for many years and has a great reputation. They provide excursions for all group sizes, year round.”
What’s more, Ripley says that if guests book at the concierge desk, they can arrange for half off the regular adult ticket.
“We have had an amazing year with migrating gray, blue and killer whales all spotted off our coast on a regular basis,” she says.
Elsewhere in Southern California, the Bacara Resort & Spa concierge team in Goleta books guest tours through Condor Express, where tours depart from the Santa Barbara Harbor located just 13 miles south of the resort. Once again, California gray whale migration season runs from December through April and is the best time to view these whales, while May through November features warmer ocean temperatures, which bring blue whales, finback whales and humpback whales, along with killer whales, pods of dolphins, seals, sea lions, sea otters and many other marine mammals. In fact, the Santa Barbara Channel is home to more than 30 species of whales, dolphins, seals, sea otters, sea birds and sea lions.