The Peak of Gray Whales Migrating in San Diego 2024

Get ready to be amazed! Witness the peak of the annual gray whale migration in San Diego this 2024. Get the details you’ll need to maximize your experience.
Jessica VanHook
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Peak of Gray Whales Migrating in SD
When is the Migration?
Why is the Migration?
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Best Ways to See it
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When is the Peak of the Gray Whale Migration in San Diego?

Whale Watching Tour Gray WhaleHumpback Whale Tail off of San Diego

While blue whales are the largest whales in our oceans, gray whales are massive as well! Adults can grow as long as 50 feet and weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds. Seeing them just off the San Diego coast is an experience we can truly say is like no other!

The migration of gray whales generally occurs from mid-December through April, with peak sightings in San Diego occurring in January and February.

Approximately 20,000 gray whales pass by the coast of Southern California during their annual migration south, with hundreds of them set to pass along the west coast of San Diego this 2024!

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Why do Gray Whales Migrate?

Whale Watching Orca Whale Tail
Whale Watching Orca Whale Tail

Because of their thin layer of blubber, gray whale calves lack the ability to survive the frigid northern waters of Alaska.

To combat this, they travel south along the Pacific Ocean from their feeding grounds in Alaska, down past the coast of San Diego, and on to their breeding grounds in the warm lagoons of Baja California. Here they give birth to their calves.

Once their calves grow large enough, the whales return north to Alaska where the food is more abundant.

The entire round trip process for these magnificent creatures can be as much as 10,000 to 12,000 miles each year!

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What is a Go City San Diego pass?

The Go City San Diego pass allows visitors to experience more attractions while simultaneously saving money.

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What are the Best Ways to See the Gray Whale Migration in San Diego

Whale Watching Boat Leaving San Diego Harbor
Whale Watching Boat Leaving San Diego Harbor

The best way to maximize your chances of seeing the gray whale migration in 2024 is by booking a San Diego whale watching tour!

Tours are about 3.5 hours long and set out from the San Diego Bay. It’s been our experience that while gray whales are the main event, marine life on the way out including sea lions, seals, dolphins and many marine birds is also abundant.

If you’d rather watch from shore with binoculars, some of the best vantage points include Cabrillo National Monument, the Point Loma peninsula, La Jolla Cove, and Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Local Tips
Bring Your Binoculars
Make sure to bring your binoculars or a spotting scope when heading to coastal viewpoints or whale watching tours. This will enhance your chances of spotting these majestic creatures as they make their journey along the Pacific coast.

Know Before You Set Out & Tips

Buy a Go City San Diego Pass

Before you leave to witness the great gray whale migration this 2024, be sure to purchase Go San City Diego passes for your family in advance. The pass includes multiple whale watching tours.

To save even more, use our discount code GVSD5OFF and combine your trip with visits to other marine experiences like the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and the Living Coast Discovery Center.

What Should I Bring With Me to See the Gray Whales?

If you choose to take a whale watching tour, we suggest you bring a hat, sunscreen and layered clothes. If you have a nice camera, it’d be a good idea to bring that along as well.

If you’re watching from the shoreline, consider a comfortable folding chair, light jacket and binoculars.

What is it Really Like to See a Gray Whale?

In a single word, ‘majestic’! In another, ‘incredible’! And if you want my personal feelings, an experience you’ll never forget!

On a tour you can easily spot them by the 6- to 30-foot-high spouts of condensed, misty air vapor bursting into the air from their blowholes when they surface from the ocean to breathe.

In addition to surfacing, gray whales can also often be seen breaching (suddenly raising their head and body up and out of the water) or fluking (raising their tail out of the water before diving deep beneath the surface again).

View of Downtown San Diego from Whale Watching Tour
View of Downtown San Diego from Whale Watching Tour

Is It Dangerous to Watch the Gray Whales Migrate?

Gray whales are known for their gentle nature and curiosity, so don’t be surprised if some may approach your boat in passing. This is a great opportunity to be able to view them up close and personal!

But keep in mind they are still wild animals, so stay cautious during any potential up-close encounters.

Grey Whale Spraying Water from Blowhole in San Diego
Grey Whale Spraying Water from Blowhole in San Diego

Can Kids Go on Whale Watching Boats?

Whale watching is a great activity for the entire family! Kids of all ages can participate in one of the many whale watching tours in San Diego.

Just be sure to check with each individual tour for any specific age or other requirements before booking your tour.

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