Whale Watching in Southern California

On July 9th, 2018, my husband and I set off to Newport Beach to go whale watching for my 50th birthday present. You see, we both agreed to do something out of the ordinary for our monumental birthdays; I mean, how often do you turn 50? Ok, once, yes, I know, but it is a big deal, right?

If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I am a little crazy about whales. I also love the summer, so summer plus whales, now that calls for a celebration! Summertime whale watching in Southern California is an opportune time to see the most majestic whale there is- the blue whale. Oh, did I mention that the blue whale is my totem animal? More on that later.

Before this trip, I had not been whale watching in Southern California for over 20 years, so I was excited for this day!

First, I didn’t want to go on the traditional whale-watching cruise; I wanted to try something different. So today, we would be going on a RIB- a rigid inflatable boat out of Newport Landing, in Newport Beach Harbor in Orange County.

Newport Landing Whale Watching Tours

Newport Landing Sign Whale watching in Southern California

309 Palm St #A., Newport Beach, CA 92661

(949) 675-0550


For a bit of reference, Orange County is located south of Los Angeles County and north of San Diego County. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed when my husband said that we would be leaving out Newport Beach Harbor. I have my website, San Diego Beach Secrets, and there is a list of all possible whale-watching tours offered in San Diego County, not Orange County!

It was all good, though, as I had only once ever been off the coast of Orange County on a ship, and I was eager to compare the two coastlines. Other than that, I went with the flow and had no expectations.

Orange County Coast Google Map

Rigid Inflatable Boat-RIB

I am not sure what I was more excited about, seeing whales or riding on a RIB! Riding on a RIB was a dream come true for someone who loves the ocean water.

Rigid Inflatable Boat coming into dock

There is something to say about going so fast on the water and being so close. Also, you do not get seasick! Well, today we didn’t because the water was relatively calm. Let’s take a look!

Zooming on the Water

Port Side Whale watching southern California

Do you see how the unique low-to-the-water design allows you to be so close to the dolphins and whales in the water? The open design allows for a 360-degree view from anywhere on board.

The vessel that we were on only had six seats. And did I happen to mention how fast you go? We came upon whales within the first 30 minutes of our trip, and the Captain knew exactly where to find them, as he had just been in the same spot on a previous trip.

There She Blows!

Blue Whale Blowhole Whale Watching in Southern California

Do you know how to find a whale out in the water? You look for the ‘spouts’ from their blowholes. I can not tell you how cool it is to hear these up close and personal.

It is essential to mention that what you are seeing and hearing is just warm water vapor emitted when they exhale. If the conditions are right, sometimes you will see a rainbow.

A blue whale’s spout is very tall and straight, can reach heights of over 35 feet, and hangs in the air longer than any other whale. Because of this, it is that much easier to find them when looking towards the horizon.

Blue Whales! Here, There, Everywhere!

I can not tell you how excited we all were sitting on the RIB surrounded by at least eight blue whales! These creatures can reach lengths of up to 100 feet and weigh over 150 tons.

Blowhole blue whale ocean view coast in background

Blue Whale next to sailboat

These two sailboats were very fortunate to have an up close and personal meeting with several blue whales.

Whale Print whale underwater white impression
Do you see the whale in the foreground under the water?

Short-Beaked Common Dolphin

Short Beaked Common Dolphin Whale Watching In Southern California

Another great surprise that awaited us on this beautiful day was a large pod of short-beaked common dolphins. I could lean forward on the bow while the Captain drove the vessel on the slower side.

It was a dream come true as I watched them surf the bow and glide with the boat. To say that it was surreal would be an understatement; then again, I may be a tad overdramatic; but when it comes to anything to do with me and the ocean, all bets are off.

If you would like to learn more about all of the possible marine mammals seen off the coast of Southern California, please go here, as I have prepared a list just for you!

A Little Extra Whale Watching Fun

Orange County Coast Whale Watching in Southern California

So, seeing that the vessel is small and easy to maneuver, the Captain surprised us by taking us close to Crystal Cove. The water was so clear, and you could almost see down to the bottom.

If you look closely, several harbor seals are on the rocks under the bluffs. The Captain mentioned that this is the only spot where you can find harbor seals in Orange County. On a side note, in San Diego, harbor seals are quite common in La Jolla!

Crystal Cove Whale watching in Southern California

I will not lie; when the Captain started to go near the shore, I panicked a bit. But the RIB was easy to maneuver, and the Captain knew what he was doing, so I felt ashamed for panicking.

Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins Whale Watching in Southern California

After checking out the harbor seals, we looked to our left, and there were a few Pacific bottlenose dolphins! They stayed a reasonable distance from us and dove deep once we approached. Wow! How lucky we were!

Zooming Back to the Harbor

As I mentioned earlier, the boat ride was almost as exciting as seeing all marine mammals. I could stay out all day long!

Right before we headed back into the harbor, we stopped to look at the Californiaย sea lions lounging on the buoy.

California Sea Lions lying on buoy

Can you believe how close we were to these sea lions?

Blue Whale Totem

Blue Whale Great Blue Marble
Credit- Great Blue Marble

So is it weird that I feel like the blue whale is one of my totem animals or, in other words, my spirit animal? Well, take a quick look and see what that means.

The whale spirit symbolizes depth, strong family ties, emotions, creativity, solitude, compassion, intuition, imagination, and knowledge. I am an odd bird and will be the first to admit that. I have known since the age of 9 that I loved whales, and that love has only expanded with age!

End of Tour

We had such a spectacular time! Can you believe all of the marine mammals we saw? The largest animal to ever live is the blue whale, about 100 short-beaked common dolphins, several Pacific bottlenose dolphins, a handful of harbor seals, and several California sea lions. Boy, what an epic day for this Cancer birthday girl!

All in all, it was an almost perfect day! I highly recommend taking a whale watching tour with Newport Landing Whale Watching.

Look at the website above as there are several tours to choose from. After riding on a RIB, it will be hard for me to go back on one of those extensive boat tours, but to each their own. I appreciate the variety that they offer. Check it out!

So what did you think? Have you ever been out whale watching in Southern California before? What did you see? Have you been whale watching anywhere else in the world? I would love to hear about it. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments that you may have down below. I have also made a short video of our adventure, so please check it out!


18 Replies to “Whale Watching in Southern California”

  1. I cannot blame you, I always loved Ocean Creatures too. They are so precious and fascinating! They give my heart so much calmness and joy! Thanks for sharing this article and video, I will surely subscribe to your newsletters!

    1. Well, it seems like we have much in common, Kris! I love everything there is about the Ocean! Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting, I really appreciate it!

  2. Hi Colleen!

    Another good post! I have never been whale watching and I would prefer to do on a smaller boat like you did. I will look into Newport Landing Whale Watching if we do a tour in Southern Cali.

    Have you ever gone scuba diving? I would be surprised if you haven’t. I saw a video a diver took while a humpback whale was swimming behind him. He/She stayed with the diver for 30 mins and mimicked his behavior. I bet that was one of the most thrilling things to be a part of!

    Thanks for sharing! I bet that was an amazing experience!

    1. Thank you so much for commenting Tina! Would you believe that I have never been scuba diving before? I was supposed to have lessons as a college graduation present, but I never did it. Scuba diving lessons are definitely in my future though!

  3. For anyone who has never gone whale watching, they are missing out!! I live on Vancouver Island, and this summer has been incredible for whale watching with many up close encounters!!! This includes killer whales, humpback whales, grey whales and even blue whales-though not as common!! The waters off San Diego offer the same opportunities that will offer you memories that will last a lifetime!!

    1. Thank you for commenting Brad! I have always wanted to go whale watching off Vancouver Island! I would love to see all of the resident Killer Whales that live there. Wow, you sure are lucky! Thanks again.

  4. What a great place to see the whales, Colleen
    I live in New Zealand and we also have an amazing placing place to visit and see the whales
    Kaikoura if you want to look it up

  5. Wow Colleen watching that video of your fun trip whale watching was exciting for me too. I have only seen a whale at sea world here in Florida, and that was exciting for me then. I enjoyed your post and video thank you for sharing.

  6. Hey Colleen ๐Ÿ™‚ First of all, I love San Diego ๐Ÿ™‚ I love to be by the ocean because it fascinates me. Whether it’s dolphins, whales or any creature in the sea, I love to see them. A trip here sounds wonderful! I’ve never seen a blue whale and that would be an experience to see the world’s largest creature live!
    Thanks for some awesome tips! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Oh, Colleen. Here I sit. Sooo jealous. I’m happy you had such a wonderful birthday present as to go Whale Watching!! What a gift of a lifetime.
    I do love the ocean. The sounds and smells speak peace to my heart.
    Congratulations on your adventure and thanks so much for sharing it with us.
    All the best!!

  8. Wonderful article Colleen! I almost felt I was with you on the tour virtually with all images and the video. I haven’t visited that part of the world yet but it is on my to-visit list ๐Ÿ™‚

    Will look forward to more such posts and wishing you a belated birthday!

  9. Thank you for sharing your wonderful views on beautiful San Diego. So many places to visit and explore! Really great information.

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