Whale Watching in Monterey

Monterey’s whale watching scene has been booming with sightings of 20-50 Humpback Whales per whale watching trip.

I’ve wanted to see these majestic mammals for myself for a long time so I did a little research, drove to Moss Landing Harbor and jumped on a boat headed for whales.


I chose to go with Sanctuary Cruises as they’re based in Moss Landing, only allow about 30 people per trip, have a biologist on-board and are eco-friendly.

Best time of year to whale watch in Monterey

Whale watching has been phenomenal year-round in Monterey with each trip out on the bay essentially guaranteeing whale sightings.


If you’re looking for a specific time of the year to whale watch winter and early spring are known for:

  • Gray Whales,
  • Dolphins, and
  • Orcas (Killer Whales).

Hot tip – fall weather tends to be best with less fog, lower winds, warmer weather and active humpbacks.

Late spring, summer and fall are known for:

  • Humpback Whales,
  • Blue Whales,
  • Dolphins, and
  • Orcas.

Locals that I’ve spoken to say there are resident year-round whales so don’t stress too much about dates.


What will I see on my tour

Wildlife are just that, wild – so don’t expect to see everything on a tour.

What you may see while sailing around the bay are:

  • Southern Sea Otters,
  • Seals and Sea Lions,
  • Seabirds,
  • Dolphins, Porpoises and Orcas, and
  • Gray Whales, Humpback Whales and Blue Whales.

What tour to book

I went with Sanctuary Cruises for my first trip and I’ve since been on the Discovery Whale Watch sunset cruise.


Other companies that offer a dedicated team and unique experience that locals and biologists alike use:

What time of day

I’ve been told anytime of the day is going to offer up some action. I’ve been on a morning and sunset cruise and wasn’t dissapointed!

If you’ve got time to spare and want the full experience, why not book an all-day tour? Majority – if not all – whale tours offer up all-day encounters that are worth checking out.

What to bring and what to wear

The Pacific Ocean is pretty cold year-round, so even if it’s an unusually warm day in Monterey, take a jacket and wear long pants and closed in shoes. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on a boat for hours freezing your butt off.


Make sure to also wear and pack:

  • Layers, layers, layers,
  • Rubber soled closed-in shoes,
  • Sunscreen,
  • Take sunglasses and hat,
  • Water, and
  • Camera and binoculars.


Will I get sea sick?

Even on calm ocean seas people can get sick. I’m lucky enough to not get ill when I’m on the water but I have felt the slight effects and I can tell you, it’s not a nice feeling.

Top tips for sea sickness:

  • Get tablets from the pharmacy and take an hour before your trip,
  • Take water and dry biscuits,
  • Try and go out on a calm day – call the company ahead of time and ask them for advice, and
  • Once you’re on the ship, steer clear of the bathroom and stay outdoors. If you stay at the aft end of the ship and keep your eye on the horizon, you’ll feel a lot better than being stuck inside a wobbly ship with bad smells!


PS. Can you spot a marine mammal that doesn’t belong in this photo? A sneaky Southern Sea Otter is hanging with a group of California Sea Lions! Now you don’t see that every day.


Want to know more?

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