Guide to Whale Watching in Long Beach

whales in long beach

California's incredible shoreline attracts whale watching enthusiasts worldwide, and Long Beach is no exception. Offering year-round whale watching cruises, guided tours, and prime locations, it'll be no time before you're up close and personal to these aquatic creatures.

1. Best Times of Year to Whale Watch

Whales migrate through California's coast year-round, so no matter what season you book your whale-watching excursion, there will be plenty for you to see and do. While there is always beautiful sea life within the Pacific waters, the species of whales and types of animals you will encounter depends on the season and the water's conditions. If you're hoping to view and learn about Gray Whales or Humpback Whales, it's best to look from January to April. Blue Whales and Finback Whales can be found from May through September, and Minke Whales tend to be seen from October to December. Other types of species you may see include Orcas and Sperm Whales, and you may even spot a pod of dolphins as they swim by!

whales in long beach

2. Land or Sea

Long Beach visitors have tons of options to weigh when planning their whale-watching adventure. The first thing to consider is whether you want to observe from land or head out onto the water and get up close and personal. Places like ShoreLine Aquatic Park, Alamitos Beach, and Long Beach City offer a free, laid-back experience on the waterfront with views from scenic piers and sandy beaches. If you opt for watching from afar, make sure to bring binoculars and aim to go out on a clear day. Whales and other ocean life can be harder to see from shore, but if you're patient and the conditions are right, you will likely find what you're looking for!

A more popular approach to whale watching is to join one of Long Beach's guided tour operators on an educational and immersive excursion past the harbor waters. These cruises will take you further into the ocean and give you access to a more well-rounded experience with knowledgeable tour guides who will teach you about the whales you see. Onlookers can also get a better look and understanding of just how massive and beautiful these animals are from the boat. While both options are great in their own way, we recommend making the most out of your experience and taking advantage of Long Beach's whale watching experts.

long beach sunset

3. Tours

Harbor Breeze

Join Harbor Breeze Cruises on an exciting whale-watching journey to view some of the largest mammals on the planet. Harbor Breeze offers its guests an experienced crew and knowledgeable Aquarium of the Pacific educators who will guide you on your voyage.

Cost: $35/adult

Duration: 2.5 hours

Spirit Cruises

Spirit Cruises' whale watching excursions are accompanied by naturalists from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium who provide guests with informative and interesting details about the marine life encountered on each trip.

Cost: $25/adult

Duration: 1-2 hours

harbor breeze cruise

4. What to Expect

The key to a good whale-watching experience is patience. While some get lucky and spot a pod of whales swimming right away, it is important to dedicate a few hours to the search. Depending on the time of day, season, and the type of whales you hope to see, it can take some time to figure out where they are and what they are up to. Every trip is different, but your guides are always ready to answer any questions you may have. Those heading out on your first excursion can expect to board one of Long Beach's cruises, boat past the harbor waters, and spend anywhere between 1-3 hours searching for and observing one of the largest animals on Earth. Whether you encounter a single whale traveling solo or a small group as they swim down the coast together, your time whale watching in Long Beach is sure to be unforgettable. 

whale watching in long beach

5. What to Bring

Make the most out of your trip by coming prepared with these essentials:

  • Water-resistant jacket and extra layers of clothing
  • Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, and other sun protection
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Boat or water shoes
  • Water-proof camera/phone
  • Binoculars
  • Motion sickness aides for beginners or those prone to seasickness 
  • Gratuity for your tour guide (optional, but always appreciated)

6. Other Animals & Sights to Look Out For

In addition to all the incredible whale species migrating along California's coast, tons of unique marine life are waiting to be seen. Close interactions with dolphins are almost guaranteed when you head out on the water. Various dolphin species, including bottlenose, pacific white-sided, and the common dolphin, are just a few hanging out in the Pacific waters. These playful mammals are known for swimming after boats and showing off for spectators. You may also come across sea lions hanging out on the rocks, marine birds searching for fish, and other small creatures like crabs, jellyfish, and more. From both land and the water, you are sure to see some incredible sights. Long Beach's animal life, horizon, and skyline are all viewable from your whale-watching journey, so make sure to bring your camera and soak it all up.

dolphins in long beach

Need help planning your perfect whale watching excursion? Visit Long Beach is happy to help. Reach out on our contact page for more information.

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