The Best Times Of Year To Go Whale Watching In Southern California

Southern California has something for everyone — from the rides of Disneyland and the rugged landscape of Joshua Tree National Park to miles of beautiful beaches. One thing any Southern California visitor should check off their travel bucket list is a whale-watching excursion. Here are some things to keep in mind before you book your trip.

Getting to the whales can take some time, and the length of the trip depends on the outfitter. Plus, it may get choppy, though the water is generally calmer earlier in the morning. So if you're prone to seasickness, plan ahead and take medication or try a natural remedy like ginger to help prevent feeling queasy on board, per UC Davis. Wear layers since it can be colder out at sea than on shore, and don't forget your sunscreen, per Capt. Dave's. Bring along a camera (the one on your phone will work), and if you've got them, bring along binoculars to help spot whales in the distance. And of course, book your trip when you'll see whales. While there's no guarantee with Mother Nature on anything, here are the best times of year to go whale watching in Southern California.

Gray whale migration typically starts around December and ends by early May

Whales can be spotted off the coast of Southern California pretty much year-round, so thankfully there's really no bad time to go, as there's always a chance you'll see one or more whales and potentially multiple whale species on your whale-watching excursion. Even just being out on the blue water is good for your health. The timing comes down to which whales you're most excited to potentially see. Gray whales migrate each year between the feeding grounds in and around Alaska and their breeding grounds in and around Mexico, per Whale and Dolphin Conservation. So you can see them as they head southbound starting around December and January and then northbound from February to May, via Condor Express.

One bonus about the gray whale migration is that you can see them from the shore during the migration. One good spot is at Nelson's, a restaurant at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California that overlooks the ocean, and if someone spots a whale, they ring a bell so everyone knows and can watch it together, via Terranea Life.

To see blue whales, visit in summer

Along with gray whales, you can see humpback whales and fin whales in Southern California. Out of Santa Barbara, a good time to see them is from late spring to early winter since they like to feed in the Santa Barbara Channel, per Condor Express. And throughout Southern California, summer and early fall are great times to see blue whales, the largest animal on Earth. Warmer water in the summer means more krill, the food source for blue whales, according to Newport Whales.

Year-round, there are chances of seeing the smallest of the baleen whales: the minke. They don't frequently breach in the same dramatic fashion as humpback whales, but they can be curious about the boats and swim by for a closer look, per Capt. Dave's.

Many cities along the Southern California coast offer whale-watching expeditions, from Santa Barbara down to San Diego. And it's highly unlikely that whales will be the only wildlife that you see. Often spotted on whale-watching trips are pods of dolphins, California sea lions, and harbor seals, according to Newport Whales.