Whale Watching Cruises in Monterey: A Guide

Monterey is a relatively small California coastal city that, thanks to its position on the south end of Monterey Bay, is teeming with whale watching opportunities. Indeed, the city of Monetery may have more whale watching companies per capita than any other city in California, a state in which almost every coastal city of a certain size has at least one or two whale watching tour companies. Having already written an overview of whale watching in the entire Monterey Bay, we decided to narrow our focus, zeroing in on whale watching cruises that leave from Monterey specifically.

There are so many whale watching cruises in Monterey Bay because it is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world, and it is also the largest marine sanctuary in the United States. Basically, it is an ideal place to look for whales and other forms of marine life. During the large gray whale migration that takes place from December through April, Monterey Bay is packed with gray whales en route to the lagoons off the coast of Baja California (the Mexican state), where the females give birth. During other times of the year, you might see humpback, blue, fin, minke, beaked, or killer whales. (Some of these whales can be seen during the gray whale migration, but the whale watching companies, in Monterey and elsewhere, understandably devote most of their energy to finding gray whales.) In addition to whales, there are a variety of sea lions, sea otters, and seals in the Bay, and there are also a number of different species of dolphin. Monterey Bay is so alive with life largely because the Monterey Submarine Canyon is in this area, right off the coast of Moss Landing. A concentration of nutrients can be found in the deep, cold waters of the canyon, which draws life into the bay.

There are four whale watching companies in Monterey: Monterey Bay Whale Watch, Princess Monterey Whale Watching, Chris’ Whale Watching, and Randy’s Fishing and Whale Watching Trips. Although each company will no doubt argue they offer the best whale watching cruise, the experience offered by each outfit will be similar. They all sail in the same waters, and while you may by chance have better luck with one company or another, everyone is trying to see the same animals. Moreover, the length and price of the cruises offered by the four companies are almost identical: Monterey Bay Whale Watch offers three-hour cruises for $40, Princess Monterey Whale Watching offers 2.5-hour cruises for $44.95, Chris’ Whale Watching offers three-hour cruises for $37, and Randy’s Fishing and Whale Watching Trips offers three-hour cruises for $40. Of course, there are differences between the companies. They use different vessels manned by a different captain and crew, and the other services of the company (i.e., those unrelated to whale watching), should they offer them, will also vary. However, a whale watching cruise with any of the companies will be comparable.

Whale watching is a big industry in Monterey, and if you find yourself there, you certainly won’t have any trouble finding a vessel that is happy to take you aboard. We recommend going with whatever company is most convenient, although it is worth staying on the lookout for promotions or coupons, as this may make one company’s whale watching cruise significantly cheaper than the others’ tours. For more general information, check out our article on whale watching in Monterey Bay.

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