Whale watching San Diego is one of the most popular activities for tourists and residents alike. Different species of whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and other majestic sea life can be seen from both land and sea throughout the year, but summer is the best time to see blue whales, the largest mammals on the planet when they migrate along the Pacific Coast.
Of course, the opportunity for an up-close-and-personal experience is better if you take an open-water tour with a reputable company. These tips can help you prepare for a successful day on a summer whale watching tour.
Not every tour company is worth your time and money, so it makes sense to shop around and read reviews before you sign up for a group or private whale watching tour. Compare companies’ policies and adherence to federal guidelines for ocean mammal viewing to ensure you trust them and are comfortable making a reservation.
While the weather in San Diego is fantastic all summer, there are days when it may be cloudy, rainy, or windy. Know the forecast in advance to save yourself disappointment. Many tours continue rain or shine, but a rainy or foggy day can decrease visibility or cause choppy waters.
In addition, check local sighting reports a few days before your reservation to see how often and what species of whales have been spotted. If sightings are scarce, you may want to wait a few days to book your tour.
To see whales and other sea mammals, select an early tour time for the best chance. The water tends to be smoother in the morning, and that’s good news if you are prone to motion sickness. The morning also sees less boat traffic, which may mean more whale activity during your tour.
Comfort and safety are the most important factors to consider when preparing for your whale watching tour. Dress in layers in case the breeze is cool or the sun is strong overhead; that way, you can be comfortable in a range of temperatures.
Take along a rain jacket as well; it can come in handy for showers that pop up or sea spray from waves. Sunscreen and a hat are a must to prevent sunburn, which can occur even on a cloudy day.
You may also want to bring a backpack or tote bag for these other essential items:
- A camera or cell phone
- Extra batteries
- Phone charger
- Water and other beverages
- Sea bands or motion sickness medicine
If you prefer to pack lightly, bring some cash or a credit card and get your snacks and drinks from the snack bar at the marina before you head out or on the boat during your tour.
Your day at sea is sure to be a success with a little planning. Your guide on the boat can help you determine if what you see is a blue whale vs humpback as well as point out other sea creatures.
Most tour companies in San Diego have a policy in the event you do not see any whales, so you may want to plan your whale watching excursion early on your trip in case you want to try again before your vacation ends.
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