#OnlyinLB: Harbor Breeze Cruises

Long Beach is one of the best places for whale watching, thanks to the Catalina Channel, a 3,000-foot-deep waterway between our coast and Catalina Island. Here, whales and dolphins can find abundant feeding grounds. For migrating species, like gray whales, the area is the perfect rest stop on their journey along the coast. Harbor Breeze Cruisesoffers passengers the chance to see these incredible creatures,including the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth, the awesome blue whale.


Harbor Breeze Cruises (100 Aquarium Way, Dock #2) boats depart from Dock #2 at Rainbow Harbor right next to the Aquarium of the Pacific twice each day at 12 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Parking is available in the structure across from the Aquarium, and Harbor Breeze provides validation for a discounted rate. Book online for a $5 discount on tickets, or purchase a combo ticket to visit the Aquarium and whale watching on the same day and save on the cost of both.


Be sure to wear layers. It can be several degrees cooler on the water than it is on land, and when the boat is moving and the wind is blowing, it can get quite chilly on deck. You also need to be ready for lots of sun. Polarized sunglasses block the glare from light hitting the water and will help you see marine life below the surface. Sunscreen and a hat are also wise to wear, but hold onto your hats or wear one with a chin strap so you don’t lose it in the wind.


Along with knowledgeable boat captains, each cruise has an Aquarium of the Pacific educator on board to narrate the journey and help passengers spot whales and other marine life. Seasonal visitors include blue whales in the summer and gray whales in the fall. Other whales that can be spotted in the Catalina Channel include fin, minke, and humpback whales, and occasionally visiting pods of orcas. Playful dolphins inhabit the waters off Long Beach year round, as do sea lions, harbor seals, and several species of seabirds.

Credit: Captain Erik of Harbor Breeze Cruises


Harbor Breeze Cruises was founded in 1990 by CEO Dan Salas, a former tugboat captain and lifelong ocean lover. His fleet of custom-built catamarans are specially outfitted for whale watching, with top deck stadium seating for the best view and an enclosed first deck with a snack bar and lavatories for passenger comfort. The vessels are also eco-friendly, with low-emissions engines, and are designed to produce less noise at top speed, to avoid disturbing marine life.


Patience is key! Harbor Breeze boat captains keep careful track of whales in the area, but it could take up to an hour to reach them if they are far from shore. If you have young children with you, you may want to bring books or games to help them pass the time. You can also hit the snack bar for soda, water, hot dogs, chips, candy, and other treats. Finally, when you see a whale, take plenty of photos and videos, but also make sure to get a good look without a screen in the way. Getting close to a whale is an unforgettable experience, and you will want to see it with your own eyes.

About the Author
Claire Atkinson