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The Ultimate Guide to Whale Watching in San Clemente California

a whale jumping out of the water

San Clemente, California is a beautiful coastal city known for its stunning beaches, charming downtown area, and rich history. But did you know that it is also one of the best places in the world for whale watching?

Every year, thousands of whales migrate through the waters off the coast of San Clemente, making it a prime location for whale watching enthusiasts. In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about whale watching in San Clemente, including the best time to go, the types of whales you can see, and the best whale watching tour in the area.

Why San Clemente is the Perfect Spot for Whale Watching

San Clemente is located along the Pacific coast, making it an ideal location for whale watching. The city is situated on a peninsula, which means that the waters off its coast are deep and close to shore, making it easier to spot whales.

Additionally, San Clemente is located along the migration route of several whale species, making it a popular spot for these majestic creatures to stop and rest during their journey. This means that you have a high chance of seeing whales during your whale-watching excursion in San Clemente.

The Annual Whale Migration

Every year, thousands of whales migrate from their feeding grounds in the cold waters of the Arctic and Antarctic to their breeding grounds in the warm waters of Mexico and Hawaii. This journey can cover thousands of miles and is one of the longest migrations of any mammal on Earth.

The migration season in San Clemente typically runs from December to April, with peak season being January and February. During this time, you can see several species of whales, including gray whales, humpback whales, and blue whales, as they make their way through the waters off the coast of San Clemente.

Whale Behavior in San Clemente

Whales are known for their impressive acrobatic displays, and San Clemente is no exception. During the migration season, you can witness these magnificent creatures breaching, tail slapping, and spy hopping as they make their way through the waters.

You may also see mother whales with their calves, as they often stop in the warm waters of San Clemente to nurse and rest before continuing their journey. This is a truly special sight to see and one that you won’t want to miss.

The Best Whale Watching Tour in San Clemente

Dana Wharf Whale Watching

a whale jumping out of the water

Dana Wharf Whale Watching is located in the Dana Point Harbor, just a short drive from San Clemente. They offer daily whale watching excursions on their state-of-the-art catamaran, the Ocean Adventure.

Their experienced captains and crew will take you on a 2-hour journey through the waters off the coast of San Clemente, where you can see a variety of whale species, as well as dolphins, sea lions, and other marine life.

Tips for a Successful Whale Watching Experience

To make the most of your whale watching experience in San Clemente, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Dress in layers: The weather can be unpredictable on the water, so it’s best to dress in layers so you can adjust accordingly.
  • Bring binoculars: While the whales may come close to the boat, having binoculars can help you get a better view of their behavior.
  • Don’t forget your camera: You’ll want to capture the amazing sights you see on your whale watching excursion, so make sure to bring a camera or phone with a good camera.
  • Listen to the crew: The crew on your whale watching tour are experts and will provide valuable information about the whales and their behavior. Be sure to listen to their instructions and ask any questions you may have.

Other Things to Do in San Clemente

While whale watching is a must-do activity in San Clemente, there are plenty of other things to do in the area as well. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit the San Clemente Pier: Take a stroll along the iconic San Clemente Pier and enjoy the stunning views of the ocean and the city.
  • Explore the downtown area: The charming downtown area of San Clemente is filled with unique shops, restaurants, and cafes. Take some time to explore and soak up the local culture.
  • Relax on the beach: San Clemente is home to several beautiful beaches, including T-Street Beach, which is known for its great surfing conditions.
  • Visit Casa Romantica: This historic home turned cultural center offers stunning views of the ocean and hosts events, concerts, and art exhibits throughout the year.


San Clemente, California is a top destination for whale watching, and for good reason. With its prime location along the whale migration route and a variety of whale species to see, it’s a must-visit spot for any whale watching enthusiast.

Be sure to plan your trip during the peak season of January and February and book a tour with one of the top whale watching companies in the area. And while you’re there, don’t forget to explore all that San Clemente has to offer, from its beautiful beaches to its charming downtown area. Happy whale watching!