Catalina Island Whale Watching Tours
The Catalina channel is an excellent place to observe all types of whales as they migrate south to Baja California for the winter months to give birth to their young and to mate, and then back to Alaska for the summer. Catalina Island whale watching season spans the months of December through March. The waters surrounding Catalina are some of the best in Southern California for spotting blue whales, gray whales, humpbacks, minke whales, orcas, and fin back whales. If you take a Catalina Island whale watching cruise, you should also see several types of dolphin, harbor seals, bald eagles, and a variety of sea birds.
Blue whale watching season in the waters surrounding Catalina Island spans the months of May-October. It is truly a humbling and awesome experience to observe these 100ft+ mammals as they pass through the Catalina channel. In 2010, Dana Wharf whale watching tour operators reported seeing 216 blue whales! This year so far, they have reported 246 blue whales, 21 grays, 26 fin backs, 3 humpbacks, and 5 minke whales (numbers updated every Monday on their website). A positive side note is that the number of blue whale sightings seem to increase each year. See Dana Wharf Blue Whale Watching Tours at the bottom of this page.
The are several tour companies that can take you to see whales from the mainland, and just one that departs and returns from Catalina Island itself. A full day cruise can be a great way to immerse yourself in the experience, spend a few hours on the Island in the town of Avalon, and return home. My wife and I and a good friend spend at least one day whale watching every year, and it’s truly a humbling experience.
The only cautions may be if you have young children that may get bored and restless (yes, it’s possible!) or if you are prone to sea sickness. Remember to dress warmly and bring sunscreen, Dramamine or Gravol, sunglasses, camera, and binoculars. We pack a lunch for ourselves usually, so if you have specific dietary requirements, it’s a good idea. Some of the bigger boats departing from the mainland do have a small canteen on board.
Most important! – Book your tour in advance and call the day before to check weather conditions. You don’t want to go out on a day when the seas are too choppy, or the weather is too extreme. The tour companies reserve the right to cancel tours due to weather..
Catalina Island Whale Watching Tours & Cruises
Catalina Ocean Rafting Whale Watching Tours
Catalina Ocean Rafting is the only company that offers whale watching tours departing from Avalon. So, If you plan to spend a few days on Catalina Island, and you fancy a spot of spotting whales, then this is your only option. Catalina Ocean Rafting used small, inflatable rigid hull boats, so you can get right in the action. These smaller boats are built for speed and maneuverability, and exhilarating to ride in. This tour is not recommended for pregnant women and people with back problems. The smaller boats also make it possible to get up close and personal with whales, and It’s not uncommon to come face to face with humpbacks, fins, blues, dolphins, grays, orcas, and marine life of all types.
These guys know where the whales are at any given time during the season, but generally the tour takes you to the windward side of the island where most of the whales are. One the days where they are on the leeward side, that’s where you will go.
The Catalina Ocean Rafting whale watching excursion lasts 2 hours. They also offer Whale Watching Day Packages and Whale Watching Overnight Packages which include cross channel transportation. These packages include discount coupons on various island activities. 2-hour Whale Watching Excursion only available during the winter months! Check their website or call for availability.
The Catalina Island whale watching package (#120) gets you transportation to the island from Long Beach aboard the Catalina Express, overnight accommodations at any of the following hotels – Hotel Metropole, Catalina Canyon Resort, Hotel Villa Portofino, Hotel Catalina. This tour last a full day, departing Long Beach at 10:00am (check-in at 9:30). Once on the island – you are free to visit shops, restaurants, and wander the town. Whale watching trip leaves at 2:30. Catalina Express returns you to Long Beach at 6:00pm sharp. Arrive in Long Beach at 7:15pm. Cost is $147.50 for adults, $121.00 for children ages 5-11, and $141.00 for seniors 55+.
For more information and to book your tour, visit www.catalinaoceanrafting.com or call (310) 510 0211 or (800) 990 RAFT.
Newport Landing Whale Watching & Dolphin Tours
Departing from Newport Landing, you get a full day of whale watching including 2 1/2 hours in the town of Two Harbors.
Be ready to depart at 8 am sharp! The tour begins with 3 1/2 hours of whale watching as you cruise the Catalina channel looking for grays, humpbacks, blues, orcas, fin back whales, dolphins, and all manner of marine life. After the morning whale spotting session has concluded, the captain will drop you off at the scenic town of Two Harbors. There you will have 2 1/2 hours to have lunch and explore. Back on the boat, the captain continues your cruise to some of the most productive waters for spotting gray whales. Bald eagles, harbor seals, and several types of dolphins are seen regularly during this portion of the trip. The trip concludes with your cross channel ride back to Newport Landing, arriving at around 6pm.
Cost is $69 for adults, and $64 for juniors and seniors. They charge an additional $4/person boarding and departing tax. Note: right now they have a fuel surcharge fee pending should diesel exceed $4/gallon. Call to find out if this additional charge is in effect. For more information and reservations, visit www.newportwhales.com or call (949) 675 0551.
Dana Wharf Whale Watching
For those of you near Dana Point, these are your guys. Enjoy the knowledge and expertise of their experienced, family oriented captain and crew, who have been running whale watching tours since 1958. They offer a number of different tours, including tours geared towards kids every week. Tours range from $32.00-$42.00 with special pricing for seniors and youngsters.
Blue whale watching Tour. Blue Whale watching season runs from May-October. Dana Wharf offers 2-hour trips every year to see these 100ft+ mammals in their migration. In the 19oo’s, whaling decimated the population which was estimated to be approximately 200,000. Today, fewer than 2000 blue whales call the Pacific their home. The coolest part of this tour is that whale sightings are GUARANTEED! If you don’t see a good showing of whales or dolphin, you get your ticket back, and are invited to come out again, the offer never expires! I can say personally that I have been skunked a few times, so next time I go, I’m going with Newport Wharf whale watching tours. The Blue Whale watching tour departs daily at 5:00pm and returns at 7:00pm. Prices are $32.00 for Adults, and $19.00 for kids ages 3-12.
Whale watching adventure cruises aboard the 63ft Ocean Adventure catamaran. Totally luxurious and never crowded, always a spot on the rail when the whales are close! This is truly a state of the art vessel with a full service deli-style galley. If you are a “foodie” this is the cruise for you! Two-hour whale watching excursions depart daily at 12:00pm and 2:00pm from Dana Wharf. Cost is $42 for adults and $29 for kids ages 3-12.
Looking for a Catalina Island Whale Watching Coupon? Dana Wharf offers 1/2 price tours on Tuesdays, year-round!
For reservations and more information visit www.danawharf.com or call (800) 979 3370.
Video: Blue Whale Watching off Catalina Island