Southern California offers numerous spots where you can go whale watching from shore. You will not get as up close as a whale-watching, but you don’t need to worry about getting seasick. Bring along some binoculars for the best view, although you can view whales with the naked eye.
December through early April, Gray whales travel along the Southern California coast as they journey to and from the lagoons of Baja California. Gray whales can get up to 45 feet long and can easily be seen from points along the coast. Gray whales offer the best chance of viewing whales from the shore.
June through October, Blue giant whales and humpback whales can often be spotted along the coast. Blue whales are the largest animal on earth, with some whales growing up to 90 feet long. Humpbacks can grow to be 50 feet long and have distinctive bumps on their noses.
Whale watching from the land usually requires the use of binoculars. Things to look for include blowholes, plumes of wet air that shoot up into the air, and fluking as the whale’s tail rise from the water before they make a dive.
Listed below are the best places to watch whales from the shore in Southern California. In addition to whale watching, you can also go hiking or view tide pools.
Located just 22-miles south of downtown Los Angeles, Palos Verde’s Nature Preserve is a breathtaking experience and one of the best places to view whales along the coast. Vicente Interpretive Center is located next to the lighthouse. From December to May, volunteers gather daily at the center to conduct a census of whales passing through the Catalina Channel.
Just south of Zuma Beach, you can park at the beach lot or, if you are lucky to get a free spot upon the point. A trail leads up to the summit of Point Dume, where there are several viewing points with comfortable bench seating to watch for passing whales. Visitors can also hike down to Dume Cove Beach, where you might spot a movie star surfing.
Another excellent place to spot whales from land is the Point Fermin Lighthouse. This area of San Pedro offers excellent vantage points overlooking the Pacific. Nearby is Fort MacArthur Museum at Angels Gate Park; both have an expansive vista of the ocean below.
If you’re visiting for a day or a guest, several trails offer spectacular views of the shoreline scenery with sea caves and rocky beaches. You might even spot a whale or pod of dolphins from the path.
Dana Point Located in south Orange County, Dana Point is an excellent place to spot passing whales. The Dana Point Headlands is undeveloped, and there is a public trail on top of the headlands that takes you out to the peninsula. There are five overlooks with comfortable bench seating. Another viewing area is the Ken Sampson Overview at the end of Blue Lantern Street.
With its outdoor tide-pool plaza, Birch Aquarium is a great place to view passing whales. No binoculars are needed as the aquarium has telescopes set up on the plaza. Birch Aquarium also offers daily local whale-watching cruises featuring aquarium naturalists and whale-watching expeditions to Baja California.
One of the wildest stretches of land left on the Southern California coast offers numerous ocean vantage points. Many trails parallel the bluff edge and are excellent sites for observing the Gray Whales’ yearly migration and the dolphins that swim the shores year-round. Many visitors have observed leopard sharks swimming beneath the sea surface.
This 160-acre park is located at the end of Point Loma with spectacular views of the Pacific and San Diego Bay. Cabrillo’s annual whale watch weekends run during January with presentations, exhibits, and films about whales. Whaler’s Overlook. It’s a great spot to watch for passing pods of dolphins. There’s even a telescope you can drop quarters into to spot migrating gray whales.
For a really close up look at whales, you will need to take a Whale Watching boat.