Whale Watching with Kids in Southern California: Why You Should Go & What You Need to Know

Whale watching is one of those things every Southern California family should do at least once—and there’s no better time to do it than now.

The outside, open environment on the boat makes whale watching a low-risk activity. Excursions are running at a lower capacity (which means more space for social distancing) and you’re outdoors feeling the sea breeze!

If you’re comfortable with it and considering a whale watching trip with the family, there’s a few things you should know first…



Photo: Captain Erik Combs – Harbor Breeze Cruises in Long Beach


5 Reasons Every Southern California Kid Should Go Whale Watching


1. It’s Different

Living in SoCal, we’re lucky enough to have plenty of fun outing options: theme parks, water parks, museums, attractions…the list never ends! But there’s something different and exciting about hopping on a boat, cruising out to the big open sea, and coming close to some of the largest animals in the world.


2. It’s Educational

Encourage your kids to observe and ask questions! Your guide will have tons of information to share. Being out on the Pacific also gives kids the opportunity to connect with our local ocean—which just so happens to be the biggest ocean in the world!

What kind of animals live in the Pacific Ocean? Which ones are predators vs. prey? How do whales sleep? Giving your child time to prepare questions beforehand will make for a great, interactive trip.


3. Kids Love Whales and Dolphins

Spy hopping, flipper slapping, lobtailing, jumping, and twirling. One thing kids, whales, and dolphins all have in common is that they all love to play!

The California coast is also known for huge megapods of dolphins racing with the boat. If your kids have a need for speed, they’ll love seeing the dolphins.


4. Give the Kids Some Vitamin SEA

After spending so much time indoors and in front of a screen, a healthy dose of the sea is much-needed! Spending a day out on the ocean can be relaxing and exciting at the same time.


5. Gain a New Respect for the Ocean & Animals

There’s something freeing about seeing wild animals in their natural habitat. Next time you’re walking down the street and you come across a storm drain, your kids will understand that whatever goes down the drain, eventually leads to the whale’s home (the ocean).

After spending a day with some of the most amazing creatures on the planet, kids will get a better idea of just how special these animals are, and if we do our part, they’ll be around for a very long time.



Photo: Newport Landing Whale Watching – Common Dolphins


6 Things Every Parent Needs to Know Before Going Whale Watching


1. Prepare for the Trip

Get your kids excited about the trip by researching and learning beforehand what animals they could see. Read books about the ocean, watch videos about whales, etc. Most whale watching companies keep a daily log of sightings, so you can get a better idea of what animals you might come across.

You’re almost guaranteed to see flying seabirds, barking sea lions, and galumphing seals. (Tip: Make ‘galumphing’ your word of the day and look up some videos, your kids will get a big kick out of it!)

Most common sightings in SoCal include the Common Dolphin, Pacific White-Sided Dolphin, and Bottlenose Dolphin. Depending on the season, you might get to see the Gray Whale, Blue Whale, Humpback Whale, or Minke Whale. If you’re super lucky, you’ll see a Giant Sunfish (Mola Mola—there’s been a couple sightings this summer!), Mako Shark, Blue Shark, or maybe even a Great White Shark.


2. Hype Up the Trip (But Don’t Oversell It)

You’ve got the kids excited about what they could see on the trip, but don’t forget to prep them for what they might not see, including a whale. And after a long trip out at sea, it could be disappointing to not see a whale.

So don’t oversell the ‘whale’ part in this whale watching excursion. Let the kids know that the whales (well, all of the animals) are wild, and they’re free to swim wherever they want in this great, big ocean they call home.


3. It’s a Long Trip

Whale watching cruises can run up to four hours or longer. It’s a nice cruise for adults, but that’s a long time for young children. Families with younger kids may want to seek out a shorter excursion. The novelty of a boat ride could wear off pretty quickly, so it’s a good idea to bring crayons, coloring books, card games, books, or toys to entertain the kids during down time. Packing yummy snacks is a must, too!


4. Bring Binoculars

If you’re lucky enough to spot a whale, chances are it might be pretty far away. Whale watching boats should be following guidelines to give whales at least 100 yards of space—that’s about a whole football field away! So bring your binoculars to view these creatures from a safe distance. Plus, it’s another way to keep the kids entertained.


5. Dress in Layers

The sunny Cali weather might have you in shorts and flip flops, but it could get quite breezy and chilly on the waters. Dress in layers and wear non-slip shoes. Don’t forget hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen!


6. Prevent Sea Sickness

If you or your kids are prone to sea sickness, forget everything we just mentioned about how great the trip will be, because we all know sea sickness can ruin everything! So make sure to take preventative measures, talk to your doctor/pharmacist, and chat with the crew—they probably have good ideas on where to stand/sit on the boat to keep the nausea to a minimum.



Photo: Ocean Institute – Join the crew of the Research Vessel Sea Explorer for weekly Whale and Marine Life Tours.


Where to Go Whale Watching in Southern California


Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach
(562) 590-3100

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro

Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari
24440 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point
(949) 415-5954

Dana Wharf Whale Watching
34675 Golden Lantern, Dana Point
(888) 224-0603

Harbor Breeze Cruise
100 Aquarium Way, Dock #2 Long Beach
(562) 432-4900

LA Water Front Cruises
1150 Nagoya Way, Berth 79 San Pedro
(310) 547-9916

Marina Del Rey Sportfishing
Dock 52, 13559 Fiji Way Marina Del Rey

Newport Landing Whale Watching
309 Palm St., Ste. A, Newport Beach
(949) 675-0551

Ocean Institute
24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point
(949) 496-2274

Redondo Beach Whale Watching
140 International Boardwalk Redondo Beach
(310) 372-2111






This post was written by Kidsguide

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