Dana Point is one of the most popular spots for whale watching in Southern California, and its location is ideally situated for wildlife watching. With a coastline that is two miles wide, Dana Point is ideal for spotting whale migrations all year round. Whale watching is a fantastic activity to experience in Southern California, whether you're traveling or are a local. There's even an annual whale watching festival in Dana Point, really showcasing how serious locals of this city take celebrating these amazing animals.

When is the best time of year to go whale watching in Dana Point?

While whale watching happens all year round near Dana Point, you’ll see different types of whales depending on the time of year.

Having been wiped out on the Atlantic Coast, gray whales can only be seen along the Pacific Coast. The best time to see gray whales is during whale watching season from about November through mid-May as they migrate between Alaska and Baja California. If you’re planning a summer trip to Orange County or Southern California, you won’t be disappointed. May through November, you can spot the majestic blue whales. They’re easy to spot in clear conditions due to their ability to blow water as high as 40 feet into the air and tend to swim slowly. During these summer months, blue whales migrate to colder polar waters to feed.

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What types of whales can I see on a Dana Point whale watching excursion?

Depending on the time of year, you’ll find the following kinds of whales:

  • Blue whales (during the summer months, May through November)
  • Gray whales (during the winter months, November through May)
  • Fin whales (all year-round)
  • Minke whales (all year-round)
  • Killer whales (occasionally)
  • Pilot whales (sometimes)
  • Humpback whales (occasionally)
  • Sperm whales (occasionally)

What other types of wildlife might I see while whale watching in Dana Point?

One of the best things about whale watching in Dana Point is that you’ll have the opportunity to experience much more than just whales. From relaxing ocean views to the scent of saltwater, you can also spot dolphins and sea lions almost all year-round. Occasionally you might see elephant seals, harbor seals, jellyfish, and sea turtles.

For birdwatchers, Dana Point is also great for viewing endangered marine birds like brown pelicans. Blue herons and cormorants are also frequently spotted.

Sharks are also seen periodically, including hammerhead sharks, mako sharks, blue sharks, and great white sharks.

More rarely, you might see basking sharks or devil rays.

What should I bring on a whale watching trip?

Whether this is your first whale watching excursion or you’re simply on a quest for a rare glimpse of a species you’ve never seen before, there are some items you should always pack:

  • Layers – Even when the sun is out, it’s about 10 to 15 degrees cooler on the water, and it can feel even colder if it’s a windy day. Packing a sweatshirt and a jacket in your bag will help you feel comfortable on the trip.
  • Shoes with non-marking soles – Boat shoes are the most common, but any shoe with a non-marking sole with a rubber bottom to avoid slipping will do.
  • Sun protection – Don’t forget to pack sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun’s harsh rays. Even if it’s chilly, it’s easy to get sunburnt or experience unpleasant effects from sun exposure due to reflections off the ocean’s surface.
  • Camera – Capture the whales and other wildlife on camera to remember for years to come.

What should I wear for a whale-watching excursion near Dana Point?

Though most travelers think of California and immediately think of bikinis, shorts, and sandals, it’s often much colder – and windier – at sea. No one wants to be shivering while waiting to spot wildlife, so dressing accordingly can go a long way in ensuring you’re comfortable for a day on the ocean! We suggest wearing a shirt, a sweatshirt or long-sleeved warm shirt, and a jacket along with full-length pants and sturdy shoes with non-marking soles.

What is the tipping policy for Dana Point whale watching tours?

While gratuity is not required for most whale watching tours, it’s customary to tip your captain in cash based on your experience. Fifteen percent is a good rule of thumb.

Will I get seasick?

If you’re worried about getting seasick, here are some tips:

  • Pack some crackers or bland snacks to settle your stomach in case you start to feel nauseous
  • Stay above deck in the fresh air
  • Keep your focus on the horizon ahead of you; don’t sit facing backward
  • Bring OTC medications like Dramamine if you’re prone to seasickness
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
  • Avoid alcohol

Other things to do near Dana Point

Can’t get enough of the water after your whale-watching adventures? You’re in luck – you can find everything from yacht rentals and fishing charters to kayaking tours and surfing lessons.

  • Dana Point fishing charters are a great way to enjoy a leisurely day on the water. At GetMyBoat, we have both guided and bareboat fishing charters in Dana Point, outfitted with everything you need for a fun experience. Inshore is terrific for fishing seabass, yellowtail, rockfish cod, bass, halibut, and more. During peak season, head offshore for tuna, mahi-mahi, marlin, and shark fishing.
  • Book active experiences like eco-kayaking tours in Dana Point or stand-up paddle boarding rentals and surfing lessons in nearby Laguna Beach. The chances are that you’ll have the opportunity to see wildlife up close and personal as you hang out near the Pacific Ocean and Capistrano Beach.
  • Layout your beach blankets and pack a tube of sunscreen for a day at the beach. Dana Point beaches are popular spots for sunbathing, exploring tide pools, surfing, wakeboarding, and beach walking.

Visiting Dana Point for vacation this year? Whether it's a week-long trip or a weekend getaway, you're guaranteed to find great things to do, including whale watching. Download the GetMyBoat app to search all your options for boat rentals and experiences in Dana Point.