Whale Watching in San Diego
In San Diego, December through mid March, one of the most exciting things to see is the annual migration of the Gray Whales. These gentle giants head south from Alaska on their migratory route to the warmer waters and their breeding grounds in Mexico. This spectacle can be seen from the shore on a clear day from the cliffs of Torrey Pines State Reserve, La Jolla and Pt Loma, as well as through various boat excursions offered in San Diego.
Approximately 20,000 Gray Whales make the annual migration of some 10,000 miles from their summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea. They arrive at the protected and warm water lagoons of Baja California, Mexico, where they give birth to their young. The Gray Whale migration is one of the longest of any mammal, and travels the route with an average speed of about 5 miles per hour often diving up to about a hundred feet between spouts.
Good vantage points to see the whales from land are from the high cliffs along Del Mar, Torrey Pines State Reserve and often from the higher shore of La Jolla near Childrenʼs Pool or Wind ʻn Sea. The best place to see the whales is high atop Pt. Loma at Cabrillo Monument. On a clear day you can see for miles near Mexico and Mexican Islands off the southwest.
The average size of a Gray Whale is from 25-45ʼ in length. The Gray Whale has no dorsal fin and is a mottled gray color. Older whales are often barnacle encrusted. The Gray Whaleʼs spout can reach heights of 10-15ʼ helping identify their location from the shores. You can usually count the spouts to see how many whales are swimming in the pod. They usually travel in small pods of about 2-3 whales, and sometimes can increase the pod size to a dozen but it is fairly rare to see so many.
Nothing, nothing, matches the adventure of watching the whales from the sea for those of you who are brave enough. Several tour operators offer narrated boat trips, but dress warm, as it can get chilly on the water. Binoculars are a must! From the boats you will get closer to the whales and appreciate their size and the distinctive tail flukes.
The Birch Aquarium offers great narrated trips, with the money going to research. Also check out San Diego Harbor Excusions, H & M Landing and Hornblower for whale watching excursions.