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Whale Watching in Monterey Bay

Updated on July 23, 2013
Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale | Source

Monterey Bay Whale Watching


Imagine standing on the deck of a boat with your camera, as you witness one of the most fascinating sea mammals surface the waters. Whale watching is a unique and educational experience for both adults and children.

Monterey Bay is a popular whale watching location due to the fact that it contains the largest and most productive canyon in North America. The canyon reaches an amazing depth of 12,000 feet, allowing deep water species such as whales to migrate to and feed on the abundance of fish and squid. Other marine animals such as dolphins and sea lions can also be seen in the same area.

The whales will give you a performance of your lifetime, slapping their tails 500 feet away from the boat. They exert different motions, including slapping their fins against the water, lie on their backs, and hop vertically above water.

Quick Facts About Humpback Whales!

  • Did you know that humpback whales have a life span of only 45-50 years?
  • They are considered endangered species, with only 10,000 to 15,000 humpback whales left worldwide!
  • Humpback whales eat about 2000 lbs of fish a day!

The other different types of whales that you might observe include: Gray Whales, Fin Whales, Killer Whales, Blue Whales, Minke Whales.

Keep your camera and camcorder ready to catch them performing an acrobatic movement called breaching, propelling their massive body really high above the water. Sometimes they twirl around and slap the water on their way down.

Among the whales that are seen, the most commonly observed are humpback wales. Humpback whales are very intelligent and curious animals, and often approach the boats. By law, the captain cannot move the boat until the whales have moved away!

A smaller boat for whale watching in Monterey California
A smaller boat for whale watching in Monterey California | Source

Have you been whale watching before?

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The Boat Tours in Monterey For Whale Watching


To truly appreciate these amazing creatures, you must go to their environment and the best way to do that is to plan a boat tour. Like I mentioned, whales are curious creatures so they will swim up to the boat. Rather than watching them from afar, it would be worth it to book a boat.

Your family will board on a typical 100 foot boat that offers cabins with large windows for viewing. The boats that are designed for whale watching are very stable, with large open decks for everyone to view. There are smaller vessels that are available for a more intimate smaller group. Taller boats with open decks are better because you can see the whales better. Some boats are better than others depending on the speed, captain, knowledge of the naturalists.

The boats take you to the whale viewing area where you'll experience the thrill of 45 ton whales surfacing near your boat. The experienced captains know how to approach these animals safely and encourage them to come closer.

The captain will stop the boat at about 200 ft away from the whales. This is the time to take out your video camera and record the whales as they approach you!

The tour guides, also called "naturalists" on board will entertain you with some fascinating facts about the animals behaviors, different species classifications, and their migration patterns. This is a great opportunity for your children to learn about the wildlife.

The whale watching cruises usually take about 2-3 hours long.

Watch this amazing video during a whale watching trip!

Other Marine Animals That You Might See During Whale Watching

  • Bottlenose Dolphins,Risson's Dolphins, Northern Right Whale Dolphins, Common Dolphins,
  • Sea Otters
  • Harbor Seals
  • Harbor Porpoise, Dall's Porpoise
  • Seabird Species
  • Sea Turtles
  • Sharks

Tips for First Time Whale Watching


  1. Best time to go is April-Nov. During the summer/fall months of April-November, you will be able to see different types of whales, including the humpback whales, minke whales, killer whales, mighty blue whales, as well as different species of dolphins. Other sea mammals also feed in the area including sea lions, seals, pelicans, sharks, and sea turtles!
  2. Dress warm! It's always much colder on the water than it is on land. If it looks sunny, it's often colder because of a breeze on the bay. Weather conditions can be different than on land. It's a good idea to wear a waterproof jacket, gloves, and even a beanie.
  3. Wear sunscreen and shades. You will be exposed to the sun since the boat is going to be out in the middle of the ocean. It's extremely bright and sunlight will reflect off the ocean. Bring sunglasses and sunscreen! Remember, you can still get a sunburn on a foggy day.
  4. Take sea-sickness medication. Prepare for your whale watching excursion by taking seasickness medication at least an hour before boarding your boat. This will give the medication time to take effect and ensure that you can enjoy the whale watch without getting queasy. If you prefer to avoid medications, ginger tea or capsules can be an effective and natural anti-nausea remedy.
  5. Optional: Bring your own snacks and drinks. There are snack bars available on the boats, but you can also bring your own food.
  6. Wear flat, rubber-soled shoes. The deck is likely to get wet as you sail, which can be slippery and dangerous. Wear rubber-soled shoes! Do not wear leather-soled shoes, flip flops, or high heels.
  7. Secure your camera or binoculars. Make sure your camera, camcorders, or binoculars have a strap!

show route and directions
A markerMonterey Bay Whale Watch -
Monterey Bay Boat Charters, 84 Fishermans Wharf # 1, Monterey, CA 93940, USA
get directions

B markerSanctuary Cruises 7881 Sandholdt Rd. Moss Landing -
Sanctuary Cruises, 7881 Sandholdt Rd, Moss Landing, CA 95039, USA
get directions

C marker66 Fisherman's Wharf #1 Monterey -
66 Fishermans Wharf, Monterey, CA 93940, USA
get directions

D marker96 Fisherman's Wharf #1 Monterey -
96 Fishermans Wharf, Monterey, CA 93940, USA
get directions

Where to book your whale watching adventure!

A. Monterey Bay Whale Watch
831-375-4658
www.montereybaywhalewatch.com

B. Sanctuary Cruises
831-917-1042
www.sanctuarycruises.com

C. Randy's Fishing Trips
800-251-7440
831-372-7440
www.randysfishingtrips.com

D. Princess Monterey Whale Watching Cruises
800-200-2203
831-372-2203
www.montereywhalewatching.com

"Goodbye...come visit us again soon!"

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    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 5 years ago from Paris via California

      I don't get to Monterey often and last time I was there it wasn't whale season, but I do get back home to San Diego and your fantastic tips will be just as useful there as Monterey! Thanks, voted up.

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Thanks Eliza, you're too sweet. :-) I hope you get to enjoy the experience soon.

    • ElizaDoole profile image

      Lisa McKnight 5 years ago from London

      Lovely hub about whale watching. I really want to go now. I love the use of the poll capsule, easy to vote. The style is really funny to an very engaging to read. Well done!

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Marcy dear, you are so lucky to have experienced both mama and baby whales swim together. How exciting...and sweet at the same time! Thank you for sharing your experience- I hope to see them in Hawaii one day.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Excellent and detailed information here! Last year, I went on a whale watching trip in Hawaii; it was amazing! We lucked out and saw several, and even the boat crew was impressed at how much they approached the boat - mama and baby (although even the baby was huge) came right up and nudged the back of the boat - they were so close we could have touched them. I'd never seen anything like that in my life - and it truly makes you feel you're surrounded by nature.

      Thanks for these great tips on how to plan for a successful whale sighting! Voted up and shared!

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much! I hope you do get to experience whale watching one day!:-)

    • profile image

      summerberrie 5 years ago

      Turtlewoman, this was such an enjoyable hub reading about whale watching! I will save this information and maybe someday either I can or someone I know will be able to take one of these awesome trips.

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Wow that sounds awesome...will be on the look out when I visit the Philippines in the near future. I'm glad they're not extinct and are being protected. :-)

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Good morning Turtlewoman. Yes, swimming and sharks in the same sentence. But Whale sharks are practically docile. They're the world's largest fish - I think. They used to be hunted in the southern Luzon seas but now they are protected. It's one of the tourist attractions in Sorsogon, Philippines.

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Did you just say "swimming" and "sharks" in the same sentence?! That is amazing, yet quite terrifying! I know some

      types of sharks are friendlier, but it would probably still make me nervous. Thanks for sharing, hopefully I will experience that one day. :-)

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I had the chance to go swimming with whale sharks (we call them butanding) here in the Philippines. It was an amazing experience. Though I've never been to California, I'm sure whale watching there is equally great.

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Beautiful Hub! I want to go!!!!

      Voted up and shared

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Thanks Tahoedoc,

      I went to college in San Diego, but ever had the chance to go back then. Hope you get a chance to visit Monterey soon- there is so much to do! :-)

    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      I loved the whale-watching excursions in San Diego. Now that I'm 'up north' in California, Monterey is within an easy drive (and we plan to visit soon anyway). I would absolutely love to take a boat tour for this. Thanks for the great info!

    • Cre8tor profile image

      Dan Robbins 5 years ago from Ohio

      The closest I've come to this was dolphins in Tampa, FL. I would love to whale watch someday. On the bucket list for sure. Thanks for preparing me when I do.

    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

      Great hub. I love whale watching and would love to visit California so thought this was really interesting.

    • Horatio Plot profile image

      Horatio Plot 5 years ago from Bedfordshire, England.

      Well done TW. Never been, want to now. Great information.

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Hi Bob! Thanks for stopping by during your hub hopping! I hope your friends decide to do this....they'll have a blast!

      Vellur- Thanks for your vote. Good to hear from you, as usual!;-)

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Wow !!! watching whales up close - a great experience.Very useful, thanks for sharing. voted up.

    • Bob Zermop profile image

      Bob Zermop 5 years ago from California, USA

      Hey, greetings from San Francisco! This is a nice hub; I have a couple of friends who are looking to visit and they would love this. Love it when the hub-hopper turns up these cool hubs. Detailied and informative. Voted up!