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Whale watching
Photograph: Courtesy Newport Landing/Slater Moore

Where to go whale watching in Los Angeles

Grab a pair of binoculars and head to these places for whale watching in Los Angeles and Orange County

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
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Sure, you’ve relaxed at the best beaches in Los Angeles and maybe paddled out to surf, but have you ever truly ventured out onto the water? Whale watching in Los Angeles is one of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of the Pacific, not to mention the marine life that sits just below its surface.

You don’t have to travel very far, either: From Marina del Rey and Long Beach to Newport Beach and Dana Point, there are plenty of harbors both in Los Angeles and neighboring counties that act as a jumping off point for whale watching adventures.

We’re lucky enough to sit in the path of blue, humpback and, most notably, gray whale migrations. Gray whale sightings are pretty common, and particularly steady in early and late winter. During the summer, blue whales begin to skim our shores, as do humpbacks, who stick around into the early fall.

RECOMMENDED: 5 things to know before you go whale watching

Regardless of when you go, expect these year-round cruises to bring you up close and personal with various species of whales, dolphins and sea lions, while tour guides share their knowledge of the marine mammals that inhabit the Pacific waters. You can choose between different types of excursions, like luxury catamaran cruises and sunset tours. There’s even a high-speed sailboat tour with a submarine-like viewing pod for you to experience marine life below water as you cruise around the coastline.

If you’re looking for unique date ideas or ways to entertain the family, these outdoor activities are something to remember. Whether you’re a quick jaunt from the ocean or making a day trip from Los Angeles out of it, here’s where you can go whale watching in Los Angeles, as well as a few spots in Orange County.

Places for whale watching in and near L.A.

All prices per person unless otherwise stated.

We’ve also noted a couple of harbor cruises that, while unlikely to bring you near whales, will possibly put you near dolphins and sea lions for a fraction of the price.

Newport Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia/D Ramey Logan

Newport Beach

Newport Beach (home to both the Balboa and Catalina Island ferries) has a number of competitively priced whale watching tours and, unlike L.A.’s popular ports, the majority are considerably more substantial than mere harbor cruises.

Newport Landing Whale Watching and Sportfishing (From $16; 2hrs)
Davey’s Locker Sportfishing & Whale Watching (From $28; 2.5hrs)
The Fun Zone Boat Company ($15; 45mins; harbor cruise)
Newport Coastal Adventure (From $84.50; 2hrs)
Ocean Explorer Cruises (From $28; 2.5hrs)

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Long Beach
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Ameer Basheer

Long Beach

Long Beach’s Rainbow Harbor is a popular spot to take a stroll or to board a cruise. It’s also home to the Aquarium of the Pacific, which offers combo museum and boat tickets through Harbor Breeze Cruises.

Harbor Breeze Cruises (From $35; 2hrs)
Spirit Cruises (Adults $19; kids are free; 1hr harbor cruise)

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Marina del Rey
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Eric Chan

Marina del Rey

Home to chartered yachts and booze cruises, Marina del Rey’s boats are more catered toward leisure than wildlife spotting. That said, you can still find a few boats in search of sea lions, dolphins and sometimes whales.

Marina del Rey Sportfishing ($85; 3hrs)

Redondo Beach
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Hester Qiang

Redondo Beach

The lengthy Redondo Beach Pier always seems to make headlines for close-to-shore whale sightings. But that doesn’t mean you can just stroll out onto the pier and see humpbacks breaching or pods of killer whales swimming by. Redondo is, however, still a useful destination for those looking to launch out of the South Bay.

Redondo Beach Whale Watching ($40; 2.5hrs)

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San Pedro
Photograph: trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com

San Pedro

Though the Port of Los Angeles is mostly known for cargo ships, it’s also a convenient destination for harbor cruises and whale watching tours.

L.A. Waterfront Cruises (From $35; 2hrs)

Ventura
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Priya Karkare

Ventura

We’d suggest cruises out of L.A.-area and Orange County harbors for most Angelenos, but consider a trip up the coast worthwhile if you’d like to add a brush with the scenic Channel Islands to your whale watching itinerary.

Island Packers Cruises (From $42; 3.5hrs)

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