Whale Watching


The Original Whale Watching Company in Orange County

Dana Wharf Whale Watching began in 1971 and was the first whale watching company in Orange County. We are the premier year-round whale watching facility in Southern California. If you want to Whale Watch, do it from Dana Point with Dana Wharf, the industry pioneers.

Our Most Popular Trip!

Whale and Dolphin Watching Tour

2 Hours

Join Dana Wharf OC’s first (and locals favorite) whale watching company and delight in the exciting sights and sounds of the magnificent ocean creatures at Dana Wharf.

Adults: $49 • Children: $29 • Seniors & Military: $39

Whale Watching Specials

Year-Round Specials
  • 1/2 PRICE TUESDAYS all year round!
  • Half price off the usual adult fare!
  • Sunset cruises are only $29 on select dates!

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Private Whale and Dolphin Watching Tours Available!

See the whales, dolphins, other sea life, and breathtaking coastal views during your private and unique experience at Dana Point. Your Captain and Marine Life Expert will be your personal narrator during your 2-hour adventure.

Whale Watching Events

Wyland’s Whale and Dolphin Adventure

Wyland says, “The coolest thing you can do is go to Dana Wharf in Dana Point and take a Whale Watching trip with your family!”

From January thru April every year we have special Wyland’s Whale and Dolphin Adventure Art Lessons in the Wild trips for kids!

  • Saturdays • January 30th – April 30th
  • Art Lesson & VIP Boarding • 9am – 9:45am
  • Whale Watching • 10am – 12pm

Pelagic Bird Watching

This 4-hour long adventure will give us more time to travel farther offshore in search of pelagic birds, whales, and dolphins. Each trip will have a local Bird Expert on board. At the end of our trips, we will recap what we saw and make sure that we log what everyone saw as well. This trip is the perfect outing for the beginning birder or the expert or for anyone that just loves the longer adventure.

Pelagic Bird Watching Image 1

Live Music Harbor Cruise

Every Saturday from June 1 – October 26

Come aboard the 95′ Dana Pride for an evening filled with fun and entertainment. Enjoy live music played aboard the Dana Pride as you cruise through beautiful Dana Point Harbor and enjoy the sunset. This unique live music event is not to be missed! We can’t think of a better way to spend your evening than with great music and great company aboard the Dana Pride.

Animals We Encounter

Whale Sightings Log


Wonder what you will have a chance to see on your Whale Watching trip in Dana Point? Here is a list of all the cetaceans (whales and dolphins) you may encounter, depending on the time of year:

  • Chevron down Blue Whales
  • The blue whale is the largest mammal, possibly the largest animal, to ever inhabit the earth. Its body is long, somewhat tapered, and streamlined, with the head making up less than one-fourth of its total body length.

    blue whale surfacingThe blue whale is blue-gray in color, but often with lighter gray mottling on a darker background (or with darker spots on a lighter background). The underside of its flippers may be a lighter color or white, while the ventral (underside) of the fluke is dark.

    Its dorsal (top) fin is small and triangular or falcate (curved) in shape, and is located three-fourths of the way back on the body.

    The flukes are broad and triangular. The rear edge is smooth with a slight median notch.

    The longest blue whale ever recorded was a 108-foot adult female caught during whaling efforts in Antarctica! In modern times, blue whales in the Southern Hemisphere reach lengths of 90-100 feet , but their Northern Hemisphere counterparts are smaller, on average 75 to 80 feet (23 to 24.5 m). Blue whales can weigh over 100 tons (99,800 kg). Females are larger than males of the same age, the largest perhaps weighing as much as 150 tons (136,000 kg).

    The blue whale is thought to feed almost exclusively on small, shrimp-like creatures called euphausiids or krill. During the summer feeding season the blue whale gorges itself, consuming an astounding 4 tons (3.6 metric tons) or more each day.

    blue fluke blue whale

  • Chevron down Gray Whales
  • Gray whales have a streamlined body, with a narrow, tapered head. The upper jaw is arched in profile, and slightly overlaps the lower jaw.

    gray whaleThe gray whale received its name from the gray patches and white mottling on its dark skin. On the skin are many scratches, scattered patches of white barnacles, and orange whale lice. Newborn calves are dark gray to black, although some may have distinctive white markings.

    The gray whale has no dorsal (top) fin. About 2/3 of the way back on its body is a prominent dorsal hump followed by a series of 6-12 knuckles along the dorsal ridge that extend to the flukes (tail lobes). Its flippers are paddle shaped and pointed at the tips. Its fluke is about 10-12 feet (3.7 m) across, pointed at the tips, and deeply notched in the center.

    Adult males measure 45-46 feet (13.7-14 m) and adult females measure slightly more.

    Gray whales feed on small crustaceans such as amphipods, and tube worms found in bottom sediments.

    Gray whales inhabit shallow coastal waters of the eastern North Pacific. The gray whale makes one of the longest of all mammalian migrations, averaging 10,000-14,000 miles (16,000-22,530 km) round trip. In October, the whales begin to leave their feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas and head south for their mating and calving lagoons in Baja California, Mexico. The southward journey takes 2-3 months. The whales remain in the lagoons for 2-3 months, allowing the calves to build up a thick layer of blubber to sustain them during the northward migration and keep them warm in the colder waters. The return trip north takes another 2-3 months. Mothers and calves travel very near shore on the northbound migration. There are some individual gray whales that are found year round in the Straits of Juan de Fuca between the State of Washington and Vancouver Island, Canada, and some that are seen during the summer months off the northern California coast.

    breaching gray whale gray whale calf

  • Chevron down Fin Whales
  • The fin whale is long, sleek, and streamlined, with a V-shaped head which is flat on top. A single ridge extends from the blowhole to the tip of the rostrum (upper jaw).

    fin whaleThe fin whale is light gray to brownish-black on its back and sides. Two lighter “colored” chevrons begin midline behind the blowholes and slant down the sides towards the fluke (tail) before turning and ending right behind the eye. The underside of its body, flippers, and fluke are white. The lower jaw is gray or black on the left side and creamy white on the right side.

    The fin whale has a prominent, slightly falcate (curved) dorsal fin located far back on its body. Its flippers are small and tapered, and its fluke is wide, pointed at the tips, and notched in the center.

    Adult males measure up to 78 feet (24 m) in the northern hemisphere, and 88 feet (26.8 m) in the southern hemisphere. Females are slightly larger than males.

    Fin whales feed mainly on small shrimp-like creatures called krill or euphausiids and schooling fish. They have been observed circling schools of fish at high speed, rolling the fish into compact balls then turning on their right side to engulf the fish. Their color pattern, including their asymmetrical jaw color, may somehow aid in the capture of such prey.

    Fin whales are found in all oceans of the world. They may migrate to subtropical waters for mating and calving during the winter months and to the colder areas of the Arctic and Antarctic for feeding during the summer months; although recent evidence suggests that during winter fin whales may be dispersed in deep ocean waters.

    fin whale fin whale

  • Chevron down Minke Whales
  • The minke whale is the smallest member of the rorqual family of whales (those whales with baleen, a dorsal fin, and throat pleats). One of its most distinctive features is the narrow, triangular rostrum (upper jaw), which is proportionally shorter than in other rorquals.

    minke whaleThe minke is counter-shaded-black to dark gray on top, white below. Some minkes have a light-colored chevron on the back behind the head. Two areas of lighter gray appear on each side: one behind the flippers and another below and forward of the dorsal fin. Distinctive to minke whales outside of the Antarctic is a white band on each flipper. The band is usually absent in Antarctic minkes, although some show an irregular banding pattern.

    The dorsal fin of the minke is tall and falcate (curved), and is located two-thirds of the way back on the body. Its flippers are slender and pointed at the tips. Flukes are broad, up to one-fourth of the body length, pointed at the tips, and notched in the center.

    Adult males average about 8 m (26 feet) with a maximum length of 9.4 m (31 feet), while adult females average 8.2 m (27 feet) with a maximum length of 10.2 m (33 feet).

    Minke whales feed primarily on krill in the southern hemisphere and on small schooling fish (capelin, cod, herring, pollock) or krill in the northern hemisphere. They will also eat copepods in certain areas.

    Minkes are found in all oceans, though they are rarely observed in the tropics. They seem to prefer icy waters, and are found right up to the edge of the icepack in polar regions, and have actually become entrapped in the ice fields on occasion.

    minke whale minke whale

  • Chevron down Humpback Whales
  • The head of a humpback whale is broad and rounded when viewed from above, but slim in profile. The body is not as streamlined as other rorquals, but is quite round, narrowing to a slender peduncle (tail stock). The top of the head and lower jaw have rounded, bump-like knobs, each containing at least one stiff hair.

    humpback whaleThe body is black on the dorsal (upper) side, and mottled black and white on the ventral (under) side. This color pattern extends to the flukes. When the humpback whale “sounds” (goes into a long or deep dive) it usually throws its flukes upward, exposing the black and white patterned underside. This pattern is distinctive to each whale. The flippers range from all white to all black dorsally, but are usually white ventrally.

    About 2/3 of the way back on the body is an irregularly shaped dorsal (top) fin. Its flippers are very long, between 1/4 and 1/3 the length of its body, and have large knobs on the leading edge. The flukes (tail), which can be 18 feet (5.5 m) wide, is serrated and pointed at the tips.

    Adult males measure 40-48 feet (12.2-14.6 m), adult females measure 45-50 feet (13.7-15.2 m).

    Humpback whales feed on krill, small shrimp-like crustaceans, and various kinds of small fish.

    Found in all the world’s oceans, most populations of humpback whales follow a regular migration route, summering in temperate and polar waters for feeding, and wintering in tropical waters for mating and calving.

    humpback whale humpback whale

  • Chevron down Killer Whales (Orca)
  • The orca has a striking color pattern made up of well-defined areas of shiny black and cream or white. The dorsal (top) part of its body is black, with a pale white to gray “saddle” behind the dorsal fin. It has an oval, white eyepatch behind and above each eye. Each whale can be individually identified by its markings and by the shape of its saddle patch and dorsal fin.

    killer whaleAnother distinctive feature of the orca is its dorsal fin, which can reach 6 feet (1.8 m) high in males and is shaped like an isosceles triangle.

    Males can grow as large as 32 feet (9.6 m) long and weigh 8 to 9 tons. Females can reach 23 feet (8.2 m) in length and weigh up to 4 tons.

    The mouth of the orca is large and well adapted for hunting. It has 46 to 50 conical shaped teeth that point slightly backwards and inwards. The upper and lower teeth interlock, which aids in gripping large prey and tearing it into smaller pieces for easier swallowing. Depending on the population and geographic area, the diet of orcas varies.

    The orca is found in all the oceans of the world, though they are more abundant in cooler waters. Unlike some other species of whales, which follow a regular migration route each year, the orca seems to travel according to the availability of food. They are one of the few species of whales that move freely from hemisphere to hemisphere.

  • Chevron down Common Dolphins
  • Common dolphins are colorful, with a complex crisscross or hourglass color pattern on the side; the long-beaked common dolphin being more muted in color. When looking at the profile of the two common dolphin species, the short-beaked common dolphin has a more rounded melon that meets the beak at a sharp angle, as compared to the long-beaked common dolphin that has a flatter melon that meets the beak at a more gradual angle.

    common dolphinColor patterns on the common dolphin are the most elaborate of any cetacean. The back is dark gray-to-black from the top of the head to the tail dipping to a V on the sides below the dorsal fin. The flanks are light gray behind the dorsal fin and yellowish-tan forward of the dorsal fin, forming an hourglass pattern. Its belly is white. There are large dark circles around the eyes connected by a dark line that runs across the head behind the beak and a black stripe runs from the jaw to the flippers.

    Common dolphins can reach lengths of 7.5 – 8.5 feet (2.3-2.6 m) and weigh as much as 297 lb. (135 kg).

    The common dolphin feeds on squid and small schooling fish. Common dolphins have been seen working together to herd fish into tight balls.

    The common dolphin is found in all tropical and warm-temperate waters. The long-beaked common dolphin is found more in coastal waters; the short-beaked common dolphin is found in offshore waters and is the species that occurs frequently in the eastern tropical Pacific. Both long-beaked and short-beaked common dolphins occur in the Southern California Bight.

    dolphin podcommon dolphin baby

  • Chevron down Bottlenose Dolphins
  • This is a relatively robust dolphin with a usually short and stubby beak – hence the name “bottlenose”. The bottlenose dolphin (like the beluga) has more flexibility in its neck than other oceanic dolphins.

    bottlenose dolphinThe color of the bottlenose dolphin varies considerably, but generally this dolphin is light gray to slate gray on the upper part of the body shading to lighter sides and pale, pinkish gray on the belly.

    The dorsal fin is high and falcate (curved) and located near the middle of the back. The flukes are broad and curved with a deep median notch.

    Adult length is from 8-12 feet (2.5-3.8 m). These dolphins may weigh as much as 1,430 pounds (650 kg) off Great Britain, though most are much smaller in other parts of the world. Males are significantly larger than females.

    Bottlenose dolphins are found worldwide in temperate and tropical waters, absent only from 45 degrees poleward in either hemisphere. They are frequently seen in harbors, bays, lagoons, estuaries, and river mouths.

    bottlenose dolphin dolphin

  • Chevron down Risso's Dolphins
  • This is a relatively robust dolphin with a rounded head, similar in shape to the more familiar pilot whale. They have an unusual external vertical crease in the melon (the organ in the rounded head used to direct sonar clicks) that runs from the front of the forehead to the mouth.

    Rissos dolphinsAdult Risso’s dolphins are usually dark gray with extensive white scarring. The scars can be scratches, splotches, or circular marks and, in some animals, can be so extensive that the entire body appears to be white. This scarring may come from bites from other Risso’s dolphins, squid bites, or parasites. As calves, their bodies are a uniform light gray, which then darkens to a brownish-gray in juveniles. Risso’s dolphins also have a white anchor-shaped patch, similar to pilot whales, on their ventral/chest area (from throat to stomach).

    Length is typically 10 feet (3 m), although animals have been recorded up to 12.5 feet (3.8 m). Like most dolphins, males are typically slightly larger than females.

    Reflecting the offshore distribution of this species, primary prey appears to be squid, although they have also been known to feed on a number of fish species.

    Risso’s dolphins tend to prefer offshore habitats worldwide in the warm temperate and tropical waters of both hemispheres. They are not known to enter true polar waters.

    Rissos dolphins Rissos dolphins Rissos dolphinsRissos dolphins

  • Chevron down Pacific White Sided Dolphins
  • The Pacific white-sided dolphin has a short, rounded, thick beak containing 23 to 32 small, rounded slightly curved teeth in each side of the upper and lower jaws. This dolphin is energetic and quite active and is frequently seen leaping, belly flopping, and somersaulting. It is a strong, fast swimmer and enthusiastic bow rider, often staying with moving vessels for extended periods.

    Pacific white-sided dolphinsThe Pacific white-sided dolphin is attractively marked. Its back is black and its sides are light gray with thin, white stripes that extend from above the eye along the sides, widening towards the tail; its belly is white. It has a black beak and lips and a black ring around each eye.

    Its dorsal fin is tall and sharply hooked, and is located at the center of the back. The leading edge is black and the rear portion is light gray. Its flippers are small and curved and rounded at the tips. Its flukes are notched in the center.

    These dolphins reach a length of 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 m) and weigh 300 pounds (150 kg).

    Pacific White-Sided Dolphins eat squid and small schooling fish such as anchovies, herring, sardines, and hake. It is believed they feed largely at night.

    The Pacific white-sided dolphin inhabits temperate, coastal waters in the North Pacific, avoiding both tropical or Arctic waters.

    Pacific white-sided dolphin Pacific white-sided dolphin

  • Chevron down Hammerhead Sharks
  • The known species range from 0.9 to 6 m (3.0 to 19.7 ft) in length and weigh from 3 to 580 kg (6.6 to 1,278.7 lb).[2][3] They are usually light gray and have a greenish tint to them. Their bellies are white which allows them to blend into the ocean when viewed from the bottom and sneak up on their prey.[4] Their heads have lateral projections which give them a hammer-like shape.

    It was determined recently that the hammer-like shape of the head may have evolved (at least in part) to enhance the animal’s vision.[5] The positioning of the eyes, mounted on the sides of the shark’s distinctive hammer head give the shark good 360-degree vision in the vertical plane, meaning they can see above and below them at all times.[6] The shape of the head was previously thought to help the shark find food, aiding in close-quarters maneuverability and allowing sharp turning movement without losing stability. However, it has been found that the unusual structure of its vertebrae was instrumental in making the turns correctly, more often than the shape of its head, though it would also shift and provide lift. From what is known about the winghead shark, it would appear that the shape of the hammer-head has to do with an evolved sensory function. Like all sharks, hammerheads have electroreceptory sensory pores called ampullae of Lorenzini. By distributing the receptors over a wider area, hammerheads can sweep for prey more effectively.

    Hammerheads have disproportionately small mouths and seem to do a lot of bottom-hunting. They are also known to form schools during the day, sometimes in groups of over 100. In the evening, like other sharks, they become solitary hunters.

    hammerhead shark

  • Chevron down Great White Sharks
  • The great white shark has a robust, large, conical snout. The upper and lower lobes on the tail fin are approximately the same size which is similar to some mackerel sharks.

    A great white displays countershading, by having a white underside and a grey dorsal area (sometimes in a brown or blue shade) that gives an overall mottled appearance. The coloration makes it difficult for prey to spot the shark because it breaks up the shark’s outline when seen from the side. From above, the darker shade blends with the sea and from below it exposes a minimal silhouette against the sunlight.

    Great white sharks, like many other sharks, have rows of serrated teeth behind the main ones, ready to replace any that break off. When the shark bites, it shakes its head side-to-side, helping the teeth saw off large chunks of flesh.

Calendar of Availability

More Whale Watching Info

Every trip is a new experience, so be sure to come out often! See attractions such as:
• Gray Whales (November – May) – These friendly Whales are up to 65 feet!

• Blue Whales (May – November) – They can grow up to 100 feet long and weigh up to 100 tons – you will not believe your eyes if you’re lucky enough to see on of these impressive marine mammals! These whales visit year round Fin Whales, Humpback Whales, Minke Whale and more

• Dolphins – take memorable photos as schools of playful dolphins frolic around the boat!

• Sea lions, pelican and other seafaring birds plus possible sightings of Sharks ( Mako, Hammerhead, and Great White)

About the Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventure Tour

Join DANA WHARF OC’s first (and locals favorite) whale watching company and delight in the exciting sights and sounds of the magnificent ocean creatures at Dana Wharf. Known as a landmark for marine life sightings, Dana Wharf’s Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventure Tours offer rare glimpses into a huge variety of underwater wildlife and gorgeous scenic views you’ll never forget.

Seasonally we see over 1500 Gray Whales, in the summer we see Blue Whales. Year round we see Fin Whales, Minke Whales, Humpback Whales and even shark. Every trip is a new experience, so be sure to come out often! Whale Watching season is year-round, marine mammal sightings are guaranteed, meaning that if you do not see a whale OR dolphin, we’ll give you a voucher for a free trip that never expires!

Balloons Blow provides information to educate people about the destructive effects released balloons have on animals, people, and the environment, and strives to inspire and promote an eco-conscious lifestyle.

For more information visit https://balloonsblow.org

Also, we’ve seen an increasing amount of plastic pollution on our adventures. Plastic is not only clogging our landfills but is finding its way into our waterways and oceans at an unprecedented rate. For more information visit COSTA SUNGLASSES Kick Plastic to help reduce the amount of plastic we use and to mobilize a movement.

2018 Whale Sightings

1670 Gray Whales (59 Cow/Calf Pairs), 256 Blue Whales (6 Cow/Calf Pairs), 109 Fin Whales (1 Cow/Calf Pairs), 187 Humpback Whales (1 Cow/Calf Pairs), 200 False killer whales, 30 Orca, 27 Minke Whales, 1 Mako Shark, 3 Bryde’s Whale, 2 Hammerhead Shark

2017 Whale Sightings

65 Fin Whales, 959 Gray Whales, 82 pairs of Gray Whale cow/calves (these are in addition to the single whales), 177 Humpback Whales, 8 pairs Humpback cow/calves (also not included in single whales), 73 Minke Whales, 9 Killer Whales (Orcas), 38 Blue Whales, 2 Bryde’s Whales, 13 Sei Whales, 37 Great White Sharks

2016 Whale Sightings

1363 Gray Whales, 390 Humpback Whales, 120 Fin Whales, 40 False Killer Whales, 61 Minke Whales, 118 Blue Whales, 2 Brydes Whale, 120 Killer Whales (Orca), 4 Basking Sharks, 12 Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish), 6 Elephant Seals, 5 White Shark, 2 Mako Sharks, 3 Green Sea Turtles, 7 Hammerhead Sharks, 1 Pelagic Stingray, 1 Blue Shark, 1 Striped Marlin

2015 Whale Sightings

952 to Gray Whales, 419 Blue Whales,  75 Fin Whales,  76 Minke Whales, 116 Humpback Whales, 90 False Killer Whales, 156 Pilot Whales, 100 Sperm Whales, 21 Bryde’s Whales, 29 Orcas, 5 Great White Sharks, 12 Mako Sharks, 13 Hammerhead Sharks, 1 Thersher Shark

2014 Whale Sightings

1027 Gray Whales, 50 Fin Whales, 29 Minke Whales, 41 Humpback Whales, 386 Blue Whales, 80 False Killer Whales

2013 Whale Sightings 

598 Gray Whales, 32 Fin Whales, 49 Minke Whales, 21 Humpback Whales, 375  Blue Whales, 11 Killer Whales

Our sightings log is updated every Monday! Please note that there is NO better time for seeing whales or dolphin as they both move 24 hours/day!

Dana Point Whale Watching Adventures

If you don’t see A GOOD SHOWING of whales or dolphin, you will get your ticket back and are invited to come out again with us! These “Mammal Checks” never expire.


About Dana Wharf

Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching is dedicated to helping locals and visitors alike enjoy the unique wonders of Dana Point Harbor and the Orange County coastline. The warm waters right out of Dana Point Harbor are flourishing with sea life including whales, dolphins, harbor seals, and California sea lions. Our thriving coastal waters provide bountiful fishing of sand bass, calico bass, halibut, bonito, yellowtail, yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, and dorado. Whether you’re looking for boat rentals in Dana Point to enjoy a private boat charter, sailboat or catamaran, coming for an awe-inspiring whale watching cruise or wanting to create memories onboard our sportfishing charters, one thing is for certain: your trip through the beautiful and scenic Orange County coast will be unforgettable. Dana Wharf is conveniently located in Dana Point, Orange County, just south of Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach – about 30 minutes south of Disneyland, an hour south of Los Angeles and an hour north of San Diego.

World Cetacean Alliance logoProud Partner of the World Cetacean Alliance
The World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) is the world’s largest Partnership working to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans). Partners of the WCA aim to conserve and protect cetaceans and their habitats in the world’s oceans, seas and rivers, to ensure their continued survival.