Join guided cruises out of Newport Beach’s Newport Harbor and Dana Point, which has been dubbed the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World®, to explore remarkable marine habitat that’s home to huge numbers of whales, dolphins, and sea lions. The underwater Newport Canyon brings nutrient-rich waters close to shore, so you don’t have to travel very far before the show begins.
The best time is during the annual migration of gray whales, December through April, though whales visit these waters year round. May to October you might see blue whales, which can grow more than 100 feet long.
Some experts believe that the 200-foot-high cliffs off Orange County’s Dana Point serve as a landmark for migrating whales. True or not, the unusually high number of whales traveling along this stretch of coast has earned it the designation of Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World®, as well as recognition by the World Cetacean Alliance: it’s the first location in the Americas that the organization has named as a Whale Heritage Site. From Dana Point Harbor, Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching offers narrated 2-hour-long whale-watching trips all year, some aboard a 65-foot catamaran. Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale-Watching Safari, also out of Dana Point, offers an underwater-viewing capability, so that you can see the marine beauties both as they jump out of the water and as they swim below the surface.
From Newport Harbor, Newport Landing Whale Watching offers cruises three times daily year round. While whales may be your focus, hundreds of bottlenose dolphins often put on spectacular displays too. On Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula, Davey’s Locker offers whale-watching cruises several times a day, year-round; they boast a 95-percent success rate of seeing blue whales, gray whales, dolphins, and other whale species.
Inside tip: Celebrate cetaceans during the annual Dana Point Festival of Whales, a leviathan-sized March event with lectures, whale-watch outings, and a parade.