Every year, more than 20,000 gray whales make the 10,000 mile round-trip journey from Alaska to the warm waters of Baja for breeding season. That is the longest recorded distance that any mammal migrates on an annual basis.

Winter is peak gray whale migration season, and with 70 miles of California coastline directly along the route, San Diego is the perfect place to witness a part of their journey.

With whales measuring around 30-40 feet long and cruising at an average speed of six miles per hour, this parade of gentle giants truly a sight to behold.

Whether you prefer to witness the gray whale migration from dry land, or want to get right in the heart of all the action, we break down the top spots around San Diego to spot them.

whale watching view of whale tail

On Land

To view whales from shore, head to Cabrillo National Monument or Torrey Pines State Reserve. These spots both feature expansive views high above the Pacific that are ideal for sightings.

For whale watching in North County, head to the Oceanside Pier, where the 1,942 foot-long wooden pier just out over the water and is ideal for spotting gray whales along with a variety of other marine animals like dolphins or seals.

Simply pack a picnic, bring binoculars, and enjoy the show!

By Boat

If you’d like to get a closer look at these creatures, San Diego offers several whale watching boat excursions. Tour operators will share their extensive knowledge of gray whales, and you may also spot other marine life such as orcas, seals, and dolphins.

Check out H&M Landing in Point Loma, a family-owned business that has been chartering ocean exploration tours since 1935. Or head to San Diego Whale Watch in Mission Bay, which offers 2.5 hour tours narrated by a Marine Biology Naturalist and indoor/outdoor seating.

In North County, Oceanside Adventures offers a two-hour narrated whale watching tour that’s perfect for the whole family. For a one-of-a-kind adventure on the open seas, head out on a 44-foot sailing yacht skippered by U.S. Coast Guard-licensed Captain Les.

group of friends riding boat

No matter where you go to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants of the Pacific, you’re sure to have a whale of a time!