You are here

California / Monterey Bay / Activities / Whale Watching Monterey Bay

Whale Watching Monterey Bay

Humpback Whale Fin Monterey Bay
Humpback whale fins are a common sight in the waters off the coast of Monterey.

Whale watching in Monterey Bay is perhaps one of the most exciting and adventurous journeys one should take when visiting Monterey. Its not for the faint of heart or for weaker stomachs in the sense that the boating trips in search of whales off the coast of Monterey can be cold and hit intense waves. However, that said, the
sight of whales migrating on their natural route from Mexico to Alaska off the central coast of California. The photo and video opportunity that can be head from these tours are breath taking and the education priceless.

Humpback whale fins are a common sight in the waters off the coast of Monterey.

sight of whales migrating on their natural route from Mexico to Alaska off the central coast of California. The photo and video opportunity that can be head from these tours are breath taking and the education priceless.

Monterey provides some of the best whale watching opportunities of anywhere in the world. All year round whales travel on a migratory route from Alaska to Mexico where they spawn and then return back up to the coast with their young to Alaska. Whale watching is an awesome opportunity all year round, however certain species of whales only migrate past Monterey depending on the time of year-however there is a high probability no matter what time of year of witnessing whales in action as they migrate by.

Whale Watching Tour Operators

The whale watching journeys of Monterey depart from Old Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey. There are three main tour operators for these expeditions. They are Princess Monterey Whale Watching, Chris' Whale Watching and Monterey Bay Whale Watch. Princess Monterey Whale Watching Tours are $39 for adults and offer 75 to 100 foot vessels (holding up to 100 passengers). They also have a frequent departure times of 9, 10, 12 noon, 1:30pm, 3:00pm and 4:30 pm. Chris's Whale Watching is $32 has and has 53 to 70 foot vessels (holding 30-49 passengers). Their departure times are 10am and 130pm. Monterey Bay Whale Watch offers tours on 70 foot long vessels (holding up to 59 passengers) and are $47 for adults. They offer a morning departure of 9am and an afternoon departure of 2:00pm. Both Princess Monterey Whale Watching and Chris' Whale Watching Tours go to the exact areas in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Monterey and are about 2 and ½ to 3 hours long. Monterey Bay Whale Watch is a longer more in depth tour often lasting up to five hours. Princess and Chris employ experienced captains with 20 years plus experience and variety of rotating naturalist as guides. Monterey Whale Watching Tours also employ experienced captains with over 20 years of experience and is owned by Nancy Black who has a Master's of Marine Science Degree and has extensively studied whales for over 10 years. She is the guide on the majority of the expeditions.

Types of Whales

There are a variety of types of whales that migrate past Monterey every year. The sighting of the whale depends on the time of year the expedition is taken. Although not whales, Dolphins and Porpoises are a guaranteed sighting on these whale watching tours no matter what time of year the trip is taken. Dolphins have been seen in Monterey Bay from the windows of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's observations deck. While not as popular as Dolphins, Orca's (known as Killer Whales and the ones that perform at Sea World resorts) are another popular marine wildlife sighting in the Monterey vicinity and available for a possible encounter all year round.

January to May

From January to May is when the Gray Whales are most visible in the waters off the coast of Monterey. Grey Whales begin their annual migration in December from Alaska to give birth to their calves. It is estimated that over 20,000 Grey whales pass off the coast of Monterey Bay annually. By April the whales make their return journeys back to Alaska, once again passing by Monterey with their calves. Whale watching operators rate sightings of Gray Whales during these months as highly likely.

Later April to December

While not as extremely likely of a sighting as the Dolphins, or Gray Whales, Humpback Whales are another popular and likely sighting off the waters of Monterey when on expedition from the months of late April to December. The Humpback Whales make their primary home off the coast of Central California during this time and feed off of sardines and anchovies. They then head to Mexico in the winter months to give birth to their young. It is estimated that are over 800 of these whales off the coast of Central California at any given time. It is the Humpback Whale that provides the most thrills of whale watching as they are known to lunge out of the water only to crash back in as well as fin and tail slapping. In recent years it has been the Humpback Whales that have approached many whale watching expeditions off the coast of Monterey and either come up and touched the side of the boat or circled the boats for hours out of a sense of curiousity. It is thought that these are newer generation whales that were never exposed to vicious whaling practices of the past and who are un weary of human contact.

June to October

Blue Whales are found in Monterey Bay from June through October. They are said to be a likely sighting but in regards to other whale species the least likely to encounter on a whale expedition. They are the largest animal on earth and feed off krill that is in high numbers near Monterey. Blue Whales are endangered and it is estimated that there are only 10,000 left in the world (2,200 off the coast of Central California). It is suspected they dive deep into the canyons off the coast of Monterey Bay to feed where krill is plentiful.

Important Information:

Pregnant women are not allowed on any whale expedition as the choppy waters and smaller boats may be risky.

Seasickness Seasickness is a possibility, these vessels travel out into the deep ocean where there are swells and wind chops. All the tours sale sea sickness medications and ginger candies at their points of departures. Passengers are also advised to pick up over the counter medications at a local drugstore before and administer up to an hour before departure time.

What to wear: Always dress warm on these whale watching trips. No matter what time of year it can be cold and wet out on the open seas. Long sleeved sweatshirts and long pants is always advisable.

Filed Under: