This guide is made possible by Los Angeles Whale Watching provider Davey's Locker.
There are special times of the year when you can catch glimpses of whales just by standing along the shoreline or bluffs overlooking the Los Angeles coast. With a good pair of binoculars, a whale’s fluke and spout can be seen from the Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Rancho Palos Verdes. This lookout can provide spectacular opportunities to catch the Gray Whale migration from December through May as the whales hug closer to the coast during that time of the year. Other areas such as the Point Dume Nature Preserve and Point Fermin Park, allow you to have excellent vantage points to overlook the Pacific, with just a short hike.
Although shore-based whale watching can be low-cost, whale watching ships offer guaranteed close encounters with our sea friends, providing spectacular photo ops and time to observe and enjoy these majestic animals in their native environment.
Humpback Whales are the most acrobatic of all the whales and have taken up almost year round residence in our local waters over the last two years making for some incredible sightings. The winter and spring months see Gray Whales in the thousands migrating off the L.A. coast. Finback Whales are also viewed with some frequency during these seasons.
DOLPHINS & ORCAS
There are about four main types of dolphins that remain in the waters year round: Common Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Pacific White-Sided Dolphin and the large Risso’s Dolphin. Although not as frequent, Orcas do make appearances off the Los Angeles coast and are the largest member of the dolphin family. December and January seem to be the best months for Orcas, but we see them from time to time year- round. The CA51 Killer Whale pod has been visiting the South Bay each winter like clockwork since 2010, looking for California Sea Lions to hunt.
SEA LIONS & HARBOR SEALS
Sea Lions are very common along our coast, and a typical sight when whale watching off Los Angeles. Sea Lions are dark brown and can be distinguished by their tiny external ear flaps right behind their eyes. They can also walk on all fours like a dog, which allows them to climb up on all sorts of objects and rocks, making them easily visible from our whale watching boats. HarborSeals can be more elusive, and will occasionally pop their heads out of the water.
OTHER INTERESTING MARINE LIFE
The Mola-Mola or Ocean Sunfish is an unusual creature, and a frequent sight during the summer & fall months. These fish appear silvery in color, and although they can be very large, these fish mainly feed on jellyfish. Flying fish are another unique marine species that we encounter mainly in the summer and fall months. The afternoon trips tend to see the most flying fish with dozens of them gliding simultaneously alongside the ship.
- Actively check the weather before a cruise. Cloudy days or even a light sprinkle is no problem and the clouds often means no wind and makes for good whale watching days. Windier days make for choppier conditions, which makes locating the mammals a little more challenging.
- Pack sunscreen or sun protection and lip balm with a SPF of 15 or greater, and wearing layers is recommended as the mornings can start off cooler, but can warm up significantly when you’re out in the sun on the boat. Even on cloudy days you can get burnt if not using sunscreen.
- Make sure your phone or camera is fully charged. There are many picture and video opportunities not only with mammals but beautiful scenery - don’t miss out!
- Bringing your own binoculars or rent a pair. Sometimes the whales and dolphins can be a bit further out from the ship for part of the viewing time.
- Eat a light meal before heading out to minimize motion sickness. Or stock up on your favorite motion sickness medication if you are sensitive.
For whale watchers in Los Angeles, several providers offer year-round cruises to choose from. Davey’s Locker Whale Watching runs year-round whale watching and dolphin cruises departing from Newport Harbor, about 45 minutes from Downtown L.A.
Only 2-2.5 hours is needed to view whales and dolphins, and with these shorter cruise times comes competitive pricing. Not to mention, the giant state-protected marine park exists just outside Newport Bay and stretches for over 15 miles!
This rich ecosystem supports huge quantities of marine life including whales and dolphin, and within 10 minutes of the start of your cruise, sightings may begin and end packed with lots of action that’s great fun for everyone.
Davey’s Locker Whale Watching is currently offering a ridiculously low $13 rate for its five-star whale watching cruise. For more info and to make reservations, call 949-673-1435 or visit daveyslocker.com/whale-watching/los-angeles.