Cities Less Traveled: Whale Watching in Costa Mesa

Chris and I have been very lucky to have seen some really stunning wildlife during our travels. Whether it is jaguars in the Amazon, sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, or river dolphins in Cambodia – every time we managed to see these wild creatures in their natural habitat, it felt like such a special moment. There is though one type of animal that I would love to see, but have’t yet managed to encounter in the wild – a whale.

Whales cannot obviously be seen in every sea or ocean. You would have to sit and wait for a long time at Englan’s south coast, for example, before you spotted one of these majestic creatures. One of the spots where whale watching is possible, though, is California. These beautiful creatures migrate past many coastal points every year, but one that is particularly popular is the coast off Costa Mesa.

Whale Watching Season

Individual species have their seasons, but you can find whales off the Californian coast almost any time of year, if you know when and where to look. The grey whale migration period runs from December to April, and Costa Mesa is ideally positioned to take advantage of the annual migration. During their migration, hundreds of grey whales will surface within sight of Newport Harbor and along the Laguna Beach coastline, so you will have ample opportunity to spot these gentle giants. The waters from May through November are much warmer and this is therefore the time when you can spot blue whales, killer whales, finback whales, as well as seals, dolphins, and even sharks.

Things To Consider When Going Whale Watching

Always check with the tour operator in advance about the specifics of the tour to ensure they will respect the animals. A whale watching tour should be an experience that seeks to reduce the impact on whales.

Whale watching can be undertaken in special vessels with viewing decks that will enable you to take a really good look at these giants of the sea. If you would like to see them up close, take a camera with a good zoom or binoculars, as vessels are not supposed to get too close to the whales. A responsible tour operator will not harm or disturb the animals unnecessarily, as it is dangerous and disruptive to be too near to these sensitive creatures. Ships should avoid going any closer than 200m and they should also keep clear of the whales’ path of travel, ideally avoiding positioning themselves within a 400 meter area of the paths of the whales.

To see whales in the wild can be a powerful and moving experience, but it is best to do your research about whale watching companies. The best trips and operators have respect for the animals and the environments in which they live, but some operators can also put them at risk. Whales are an endangered species and it would be tragic if they were harmed, or even became extinct, because of irresponsible tourism practices.


Disclaimer: This post is part of the #‎HipmunkCityLove project. I am a Freelancer for Hipmunk and was compensated to write this article.

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About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

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