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Whale Watching Dana Point Visitors

For whale watching Dana Point visitors and Dana Point residents, Newport Landing has provided whale watching cruises for over 30 years from nearby Newport Bay in Newport Beach. With multiple cruises offered every day year round there is always an opportunity to view whales and dolphin. Winter and Spring offer the annual grey whale migration which brings thousands of grey whales along the coastlines of Dana Point, Laguna Beach, & Newport Beach as they travel to breeding grounds in Mexico and then back again to their summer feeding groups in the Pacific northwest. Summer and Fall brings the largest mammal in the world the giant blue whale into our coastal waters. These giant mammals average lengths of 80 feet and eat 4-6 tons of krill in one day. Over a half dozen other species of whales can be encountered as well, including Finback whales, Minke whales, and even Killer whales on occasion. Dolphins are also encountered and "super" pods of common and Bottlenose dolphin numbering in the thousands are frequent. Sea lion and their pups are fixtures on every whale watching cruise.

Things to Bring When Whale Watching

  • Camera - I can't think of a better activity for those that love to photograph nature. There are always opportunities to take unique pictures of a lifetime. Capturing the excitement of those viewing a whale or dolphin is always fun. And the scenery off of the south coastline from Dana Point to Newport Beach is some the best in southern California.

  • Jacket - Whether whale watching in the winter or summer it can be cool on the water. Layers are always the best bet, because it can be both cool and warm within a short period of time. Average temperature is 71 degrees. With temperatures rarely exceeding 10 degrees warmer or colder than the 71 degree average.

  • Motion Sickliness Medication-Although the waters around Dana Point, Laguna Beach, & Newport Beach are extremely calm those that are very susceptible to motion sickness may want to take medication. Bonnie and Dramamine seem to work very well with Bonine being a less drowsy option.

  • Binoculars - Are always recommended weather you rent a pair or bring your own. Binoculars give you the ability to see amazing detail that you would miss with the naked eye such as the barnacles on a Grey whale or the intricate markings of a Risso dolphin.

  • Sunscreen - Even during our shortest days of the year sunscreen is always recommended, as the glare from the water can amplify the sun's intensity. Cloudy days can be deceiving as well, and we have our share on the water usually during the morning hours. Don't skimp on the sunscreen even on these cloudy days. During the late spring, summer, and fall months forgetting to apply sunscreen can result in some pretty nasty sun burns.

  • Chap Stick - Same as sunscreen. Make sure to re-apply throughout the day.

  • Cash - Okay this seems obvious, but not for your whale watching cruise, but for refreshments or a snack for the refreshment center. They provide cold drinks and hot drinks and snacks, but they only take cash.


Types of Whales Sighted While Whale Watching Dana Point Area

California Gray Whales are baleen whales, meaning that they strain their food from the surrounding water and mud using plates or baleen. Many biologists believe that Gray Whales were among the first whale species to evolve. Gray whales are among the largest whales although still half the size of the giant blue whales. Adults are about 35-45 feet long and weigh 22-35 tons. Females are larger than males. Grey whales travel some 8,000-12,000 miles every year from their feeding grounds in the cold nutrient rich arctic waters where they feed on bottom crustaceans, called amphipods, which they furrow out of the silt at the mouths of the northern rivers. In fall and winter they migrate all the way south to the warm water, shallow lagoons of Baja California where they mate and bear their young. Along their migration path is our coastline and this en mass migration has been the cornerstone of whale watching in Dana Point, Newport Beach, and Southern California.
It is the largest animal on earth, ever. A big Blue Whale can be 100 feet long and weigh up to 150 tons. That's as large as a Boeing jet. Its heart is as large as a small car. Fifty people could stand on its tongue. Its spout shoots up at least 30 feet when it surfaces for air. During its high feeding season, a Blue Whale consumes more than 4-6 tons of krill in one day. In order to get that much to eat, a Blue Whale can expand its throat to take in as much as 50 tons of water in one gulp. Then it forces the water out through comb-like plates which keep the krill in and let the water filter out. These huge plates are called baleen. Baleen is made of the same material as our fingernails. These giants have been frequenting our coastlines off the Dana Point, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach more and more each year with hundreds of blue whales sighted in 2011.
The second largest whale and the second largest living animal after the Blue Whale growing to nearly 88 ft long. Fin Whales are also the world's fastest whale, traveling at speeds up to 35 mph! Fin Whales have 800-900 baleen plates which they use to feed on schooling fish and krill. A Fin Whale can eat 2-3 tons of fish per day. Fin Whales have a noticeable spout, or blow, that rises about 20 feet above the water and can be seen from a good distance away. They surface fairly horizontally, and you will see their head, dark back, and tall dorsal fin as they surface. Fin Whales rarely raise their tail above the water when they dive - they just arch their back and dive gracefully into the water. Along with Blue Whales more and more Finback Whales are being viewing each season along the coasts of Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Dana Point.
The Humpback Whale is one of the larger species; adults range in length from 40–50 feet and weigh approximately 79,000 pounds. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, Humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. During the feeding periods Humpbacks have come up with some creative feeding techniques including bubble net feeding. It goes like this; a group of whales blow bubbles while swimming in circles to create a ring. The ring encircles the fish, which are confined in an ever-tighter area as the whales swim in a smaller and smaller circle. The whales then suddenly swim upward through the bubble net, mouths agape, swallowing thousands of fish in one gulp. This technique can involve a ring of bubbles up to 100 feet in diameter and the cooperation of a dozen Humpbacks. Some of the whales take the task of blowing the bubbles through their blowholes, some dive deeper to drive fish toward the surface, and others herd fish into the net by vocalizing.
Minke Whales grow to be about 25-30 feet (7.8-9 m) long, weighing about 6-7.5 tons (5.4-6.8 tones). Females are about 2 feet (0.6 m) longer than males, as with all baleen whales. Minke Whales normally swim 3-16 mph (4.8-25 kph), but can go up to 18-21 mph (29-34 kph) in bursts when in danger. Minke Whales are the most abundant baleen whale. It is estimated that there are about almost 800,000 Minke Whales world-wide.
The Killer Whale's large size and strength make it among the fastest marine mammals, often reaching speeds in excess of 56 km/h (35 mph). The Killer Whale is an apex predator. They are sometimes called the wolves of the sea, because they hunt in packs (or in their case, pods) like wolves. On average, a Killer Whale eats 227 kg (500 lb) of food each day. [The migration patterns of Killer Whales are poorly understood. Each summer, the same resident Killer Whales appear off the coasts of British Columbia and Washington State. After decades of research, it is still unknown where these animals go for the rest of the year. Transient pods have been sighted from southern Alaska to central California. Scientists spotted a white killer whale off Alaska on February 23, 2008. On some occasions, Killer Whales will swim into freshwater rivers. They have been documented 100 miles up the Columbia River in the United States. Killer whales are fairly rare in our waters but we have had some exceptional sightings.
Sperm Whale - The Sperm Whale is a toothed whale that lives in pods. It has a huge brain that weighs about 20 pounds it is the largest brain of any animal. The Sperm Whale has a single blowhole that is s-shaped and about 20 inches long. The blowhole is located on the left side of the front if it's huge head. Adult males grow to be about 50-60 feet long, weighing about 40-50 tons. Sperm Whales have the largest head of any animal. It can be about 20 feet long, 10 feet high, and 7 feet across, and is about one-third of the whale's body length. The head has a distinctive box-like shape. The heads are frequently covered with circular scars that are made by the suckers of the giant squid that they hunt and eat.


Different Dolphin Species Viewed While Whale Watching Off
Dana Point

Bottlenose dolphin typically weigh 440 to 600 pounds and reach an average size of 10 feet (some reach as much as 14 feet). Bottlenose dolphins often live 30 to 50 years. Dolphins consume 13 to 33 pounds of food per day. They feed on a variety of fish, cephalopods (such as squid and octopus), and other sea life. They use echolocation bouncing sound off of objects to determine their location to hunt and use a series of high-pitched clicks to stun prey.
The Common Dolphin is between 5-8 feet in length and weigh on average about 160 pounds. The Common Dolphin is the fastest of the small dolphins, attaining speeds over 27 miles per hour. These animals are very social and often travel in enormous pods of more than a thousand. They're known for their high leaps out of the water, sometimes simultaneously in groups, and they enjoy riding the bow waves of boats for long periods of time. They are a very energetic and highly vocal species that produce a variety of whistles, pulses, and clicks that are easily heard by divers. The waters off Orange County teem with Common Dolphin and it is almost a guarantee that you will view them on a whale watching trip.
The Pacific White-Sided Dolphin has three color tones. The chin, throat and belly are creamy white. The beak, flippers, back, and dorsal fin are a dark gray. There are light gray patches on the sides and a further light gray stripe running from above the eye to below the dorsal fin where it thickens along the tail stock. A dark gray ring surrounds the eyes. The species is of average size for an oceanic dolphin, weighing up to 330 pounds in females and 440 pounds in males and growing up to 8 feet for males and 6.5 feet in length for females.
Risso Dolphin - Risso Dolphin, sometimes called "Gray Dolphin," have a robust body with a narrow tailstock. These medium sized cetaceans can reach lengths of approximately 8.5-13 feet and weigh 660-1,100 pounds Risso Dolphin are found in groups of 5-50 animals, but groups typically average between 10-30 animals. Occasionally this species associates with other dolphins and whales. Risso Dolphin are capable of diving to at least 1,000 feet and holding their breath for 30 minutes, but usually make shorter dives of 1-2 minutes. They feed on anchovies, krill, and squid mainly at night when their prey is closer to the surface.

Sea Birds Encountered On A Dana Point Whale Watching Trip

California Brown Pelican
California Brown Pelican is the smallest of the eight species of pelican, although it is a large bird in nearly every other regard. Once on the endangered list it has since been removed with healthy populations along California. There is a myth that Brown Pelicans go blind from diving into the water to catch fish, causing them to starve to death because they can no longer see to hunt. However, pelicans can live and fish for up to thirty years without going blind. It is very common to see a flock of pelicans soar just above the surf line while traveling in search of whales. Feeding frenzies with dolphins, huge schools of fish, pelicans, sea gulls, and even whales can be seen and is amazing sight.
Of shearwaters, surely the Black-Vented Shearwater can be said to be a true So Cal specialty. Some 30-50 thousand winter along the nearest-shore escarpments off Dana Point (large concentrations just north of the harbor). Thousands can be seen at times. They fly close to the waves, their flight more fluttery than that of other shearwaters and marine birds in general. They feed by snatching food from the water's surface and sometimes by diving. They also swim beneath the surface, aided by their wings. We commonly see them feeding on a school of fish and at times they can be confused with fish as they dive very deep. They make for a very active viewing experience. A pretty common sighting especially in the fall and winter months. A group of shearwaters are collectively known as an "improbability" of shearwaters
A seabird that pursues and catches fish under water. When the Cormorant catches sight of its prey, it dives swiftly into the water. They dive from the surface, though many species make a characteristic half-jump as they dive, presumably to give themselves a more streamlined entry into the water. Under water they propel themselves with their feet. Some cormorant species have been found, to dive to depths of as much as 145 feet. Wow! Cormorants can be seen year round although the summer and fall months have the most sightings.
Pelagic Gulls
There are several species of gulls that are commonly viewed on almost every whale watching excursion including the California Gull and Herring Gull. Gulls or more commonly known as Sea Gulls are not shy and will follow the ship for some distance. They can put on a dizzying viewing opportunity when a feeding opportunity presents itself.
Terns are small super-fast birds that are commonly viewed inside the harbor or along the coastline of Dana Point. The Royal and The California Lesser tern are two of several types that frequent our waters. They can hover above the water until the moment comes for them to dive in and snatch up a fish. The agility makes them a favorite especially for the kids.

Other Marine Creatures Viewed While Whale Watching

Giant Sunfish
Ocean Sunfish, or Mola, are one of the most unusually looking creatures on Earth. Huge and flat, these silvery-gray fish have tiny mouths and big eyes that vanish into an even bigger body with a stubby tail. Topping out around 6,000 pounds, Mola are the world's heaviest bony fish. They grow to a maximum of about 10 feet long and are often taller than they are long, up to 14 feet. Sunfish are commonly seen especially in the summer and fall months while whale watching. They seem to prefer the warm blue waters during these months.
There are several species of sharks that can be seen while whale watching including Mako Sharks, Blue Sharks, Thresher Sharks, and rarely even Great White Sharks.
Mako Shark
Mako sharks are seen with some frequency on whale watching cruises. They are very fast and usually their fin is spotted as they zip through the water. They can grow to over 1000 pounds, but many are juveniles from 60 to 100 pounds. They rarely attack man unless provoked although larger specimens are considered quite dangerous.
Blue Shark
Blue sharks are open ocean sharks that can appear in large numbers especially when there is a food source nearby. Occasionally seen while whale watching they are harder to spot due to their coloration and smaller size in compared with other sharks of our region.
Thresher Shark
Thresher sharks are seen while whale watching especially during the spring months during the grey whale migration. They are typically seen around huge schools of anchovy and sardine. It is a quick and yet impressive sighting, as they can come completely out of the water while pursuing their dinner. They can be quite large especially when their tail is included. They are very unusual as they use their tail to catch their prey.
Great White Shark
One of the rarest of sharks sighted during a whale watching cruise. Only a couple sightings a year occur and full grown adults are even rarer. One of the apex predators they can grow to 20 feet in length. Spring and early summer seem to have the highest number of sightings in our area.
Flying Fish
While they do not actually fly, they will swim up to 30 mph and launch into the air, using their specially adapted fins to glide for up to 1/4 mile. Its tail fins will vibrate to taxi along the surface. During the summer and fall months large schools of flying fish frequent our waters and especially later in the afternoon, dozens can be spotted launching themselves and gliding as the whale watching ship cuts through the water off Dana Point.
Whale Watcher’s Lodging Recommendations For Dana Point Area

The Art Hotel Laguna Beach - (877) 363-7229 - Great Value in Laguna Beach. Enjoy the sun, beaches, shops, galleries, museums, sidewalk cafes or gourmet restaurants! Plus, The Pageant Of The Masters and the Summer Sawdust Festival are all in beautiful Laguna Beach. You can enjoy it all without breaking the bank!

Best Western Laguna Brisas Spa Hotel - (949) 497-7272 - Low rise Resort Inn situated opposite beach, adjacent to shopping area. This is a great value for the Laguna Beach area with partial ocean views. The beach is within walking distance. Recommend staying in one of the rooms that do not face the South Coast Highway if noise is bothersome to you.

Montage Resort & Spa- (949) 715-6000 - With sweeping panoramas of the Pacific Ocean, this elegant 262 - room resort offers the 20,000-square-foot oceanfront Spa Montage, three sparkling swimming pools, destination dining and over 20,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space.

Surf & Sand Hotel - (949) 497-4477 - Located in the heart of enchanting Laguna Beach along 500 ft. of spectacular Pacific coastline, Surf & Sand is the perfect getaway. Don cozy cotton robes and order breakfast in bed. Relax poolside, overlooking the ocean. Dine at Splashes and enjoy mouth watering Mediterranean cuisines with California inspired influences. Stunning ocean views!

Laguna Cliffs Inn - (949) 497-6645 - This is a very quaint three-story motel. It has a pool, but it is small. Good location away from noise and crowds, yet close enough to walk to beach, restaurants, and galleries. Recommend requesting a room on the top floor, as there is lots of noise below.

Casa Laguna Inn - (949) 494-2996 - This was formerly an historic home/artist colony. The property is located just a mile or so off of 133 on South Coast Hwy 1 and it is just up and out of the crazy bustle of shops and restaurants. Library of classic movies on DVD, and DVD players in all rooms! There is also complimentary wine and cheese; hors d'oeuvres. This is an ideal destination for a romantic getaway. Victoria beach is 10min walk away and gorgeous. All rooms equipped with free internet.

Holiday Inn - (949) 494-1001 - Two rooms, one large bedroom with an adjoining bathroom, and a large sitting room with a fold out queen sofa, coffee table, fridge, sitting area with table, and a fireplace. Both rooms have large flat screen televisions. The bathroom is massive, with a large jacuzzi spa tub. Although not right on the beach, it was less than 1/2 block away. Downtown is also very close - 2 blocks.

Laguna Riviera Hotel - (949) 494-1196 - This hotel is part French Riviera, part Mediterranean retreat. They offer a variety of rooms to satisfy every need, from ocean front studios with Jacuzzi tubs to grand one bedroom suites, some with a full kitchen, private ocean front deck, and cozy fireplace. All rooms offer a refrigerator, coffee maker, color TV, HBO, phone, voice mail, and hair dryer.

Best Western Laguna Reef Inn - (949) 499-2227 - The inn rooms are set back from the road behind lovely Palms and gardens which surround their cozy pool. Amenities include free parking, internet, and continental breakfast with no hassles. This hotel is one of the best for convenience. This location is near restaurants, unique shops, and galleries.

Capri Laguna Inn on The Beach - (949) 494-6533 - This location is within walking distance to all main attractions, restaurants, shops & the center of town. For the price, the rooms here are up to par.

Inn At Laguna Beach - (949) 497-9722 - Oceanfront Inn located 1 block from downtown stores and restaurants & 12 miles from John Wayne/Orange County Int'l Airport. This location has a rooftop patio with heaters for the evening chill. The pool area is just fantastic with a great hot tub for all your lounging needs.

Best Inn - Laguna Beach - (949) 494-6464 - If you’re on a budget, you’ll be nicely surprised by this place. If all you need is an inexpensive place to crash in Laguna and don't care about view or location then you will be very happy.

Courtyard Laguna Hills - (949) 859-5500 - Contemporary Motor Hotel, located off the I-5. They serve Otis Spunkmeyer cookies in the evening...which are delicious! This Courtyard has a very clean and inviting atmosphere. Nice bathrooms and towels.

Ayres Hotel Laguna Woods - (949) 588-0131 - An upscale European boutique hotel designed in Tuscan Villa Style with paintings, gas lamps & courtyard; near Aliso Viejo. 20 min. drive to the Pacific Coast Highway. You get a great value staying here. The hotel is located in a shopping center.

Comfort Inn at Laguna Hills - (949) 859-0166 - There are so many places to eat in 5 min drive. This hotel is very convenient and just completed renovations. This hotel is of Spanish-influence, and located downtown.

La Casa Del Rio Del Camino - (949) 497-2446 - Built in 1927, this intimate Orange County hotel is tucked between Pacific Coast Highway and the beach, seven blocks from the shops and galleries of central Laguna Beach. Also includes an eclectic Mediterranean/Asian restaurant, and a furnished rooftop deck. High-speed Internet access and complimentary premium channels.

Aliso Creek Inn - (949) 499-2271 - 2 miles from Downtown Laguna and tucked into a canyon, this golf resort offers condo-sized quarters with spacious rooms and full kitchens (including toasters, ovens, refrigerator, and stove). This is an ideal location for families, extended stay guests, or reunions. The only thing is that this Inn does not have air conditioning.

The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa - (949) 234-3200 - The St. Regis Monarch stands along the pristine shores of the majestic Pacific Ocean. Experience the only California resort crowned with the Mobil Five-Star, Five - Diamond Award. This award-winning coastal retreat features an 18-hole golf course, 30,000-square foot Spa Gaucin and six ocean-view restaurants including celebrated chef Michael Mina's Stonehill Tavern.

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel - (949) 240-2000 - Consistently ranked among the world’s premier travel destinations, it provides the perfect getaway for the discriminating guest. Restore your spirit in the cleansing waters of our brand-new spa. Enjoy innovative seafood cuisine in our ocean-view restaurant. Treat yourself to a romantic California coast vacation in our richly appointed accommodations in a striking oceanfront setting.

Holiday Inn - (949) 586-5000 - Modern Hotel with guest room amenities for the business or leisure traveler; set near the Freeway, 15 miles from SNA airport. It is across from the beach, grocery store and in the heart of Laguna Beach stores and galleries.

Marriott Newport Coast Villas - (949) 464-6000 - Perched high upon a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Marriott's Newport Coast Villas offers fully equipped kitchen, living/dining area, washer/dryer and private balcony/patio. They have 4 outdoor pools, 3 whirlpool spas, fitness center, tennis courts, and activity center with game room.

Balboa Bay Club & Resort - (949) 645-5000 - This is a high end resort directly off the bay with a wonderful view. Immaculate rooms with high quality sheets and bedding. Great pool, and dogs are allowed for an extra fee.

Four Season Hotel - (949) 759-0808 - Luxury, resort hotel that is elegant and immaculate. If you are attracted to shopping you will be right at home here. The Four Seasons is right next to Fashion Island. It has nicely appointed rooms with plenty of space. From an abundance of 100% cotton oversized bath towels in our marble bathrooms to their uniquely designed mattresses with Italian linens and goose down duvets, your every home-away-from-home needs are happily met. Step-out balconies and/or furnished patios are featured in each and every one of our rooms to ensure a truly Southern California experience, complete with ocean-fresh breezes and the option of Newport Harbor and Pacific Ocean views. This location is great for business travelers and families.

Hyatt Newporter - (949) 729-1234 - With over 900 palm trees on this beautiful property, the Hyatt NB is a distinguished resort & convention hotel set in 26 acres overlooking Newport Beach's Back Bay. In addition to well-maintained, cabana-like rooms, you can entertain clients on their par-3 golf course or swim in one of our sparkling pools. Entertain clients on our par-3 golf course or swim in one of the very nice, sparkling pools. Take advantage of deluxe amenities, including generous work area with high-speed Internet access, a refrigerator and an in-room safe. Enjoy video-on-demand, cable/satellite channels, dual-line speakerphone with voicemail, daily newspaper, coffeemaker and exclusive Portico bath products.

Best Western Newport Beach Inn - (949) 642-8252 - They have very clean and nice rooms and are close to the beach. Most rooms have a partial beach view. This hotel is located about halfway between Downtown Newport Beach and Downtown Huntington.

Balboa Inn - (949) 675-3412 - Ideally situated, overlooking the beach, but right in the middle of everything. This is a very nice and friendly atmosphere. The perfect destination for families, as the Balboa Peninsula’s “Fun Zone” is nearby. There the kids will enjoy a Ferris wheel, arcade, and shops. A very relaxed, touristy feel, but around plenty of good restaurants and action! One thing, no air conditioning.

Marriott Newport Beach Hotel - (949) 640-4000 - The newly remodeled hotel accommodations offers a whole new take on coastal living with sleek, modern style. Retreat to an elegant guest room, and enjoy sweeping Pacific views, a vibrant decor, and plush furnishings.

Little Inn By The Bay - (949) 673-8800 - The pier and beach is a 10 minute walk away. Smaller, older Inn, but the rooms are nice and it’s close to all the Newport action. Each distinctively decorated guest room in the 18-room Little Inn By the Bay invites comfort and relaxation, as it’s one of the most affordable hotels in Newport Beach. Whether a weekend get-a-way or a mini vacation, the Little Inn is a nice place to stay.

Marriott Suites Newport Beach - (949) 854-4500 - Each suite offers high speed internet access, dry bar and our Revive Bedding Collection for a good night's rest. The courtyard overlooks Newport's Back Bay and holds events for up to 120.

Sutton Place Hotel - (949) 476-2001 - Sutton Place Hotel is the industry favorite for business people seeking amenities and a close proximity to the Orange County business scene near John Wayne / Orange County Airport.

Radisson Newport Beach - (949) 833-0570 - Located just a 1/2 mile from the John Wayne Airport, and offers a FREE shuttle ride away, we offer the perfect location for both business and leisure travelers.

Valuable Links When Planning For Dana Point Whale Watching
Dana Point Weather Forecast
Dana Point Whale Watching Sightings
Whale Watching Tips
Comprehensive Information On Whales And Other Marine Life
Whale Conservation
Dana Point Ocean Institute
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Other Like Activities To Whale Watching In Dana Point Area
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Orange County Coastkeeper
For Reservations Call:
(949) 675-0551
Newport Beach Whale Watching 309 Palm St. #A - Newport Beach CA. 92661
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