Whale Watching Cruises in Monterey Bay: A Guide

Monterey Bay is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world and the largest marine sanctuary in the United States. Among other things, this makes Monterey Bay a superb place to take a whale watching cruise, and there are plenty of whale watching cruises to be taken along this stretch of the California coastline. There are whale watching cruise companies in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and a couple of places in between. There is an abundance of options, which is good, but it also makes it harder to make sense of all the possibilities, so below we have compiled a guide to whale watching cruises in Monterey Bay.

Monterey Bay whale watching cruises, by definition, take place in Monterey Bay. This is profoundly obvious, but worth mentioning to highlight the fact that any cruise you take in Monterey Bay will be fairly similar. To begin, almost all of them will last a few hours; every cruise that we looked at lasted from 2.5 hours to 4 hours, with more cruises concentrated toward the longer end of the spectrum. You will also see similar marine wildlife on any given Monterey Bay cruise. Gray whales, for example, will be seen during their winter migratory season (roughly December through April), and this will be true regardless of what company you book your cruise with. The same applies to the humpback, blue, fin, minke, beaked, or killer whales you might see, as well as to the numerous other forms of wildlife in Monterey Bay, like various species of dolphin, seals, and seabirds. Finally, barring any sort of promotional deal, the costs of these cruises are comparable. Adult tickets cost around $40 to $50, and children’s tickets cost about $10 less.

In previous articles about whale watching in a particular region, we spun together a nice paragraph or two that lists and briefly describes every (or at least most) of the whale watching cruise companies in city. However, given the relative abundance of cruises in Monterey Bay, we’ve decided to simply compile a list that links to each company’s website. We can’t guarantee that the list is exhaustive, but it should definitely include any major whale watching company that offers cruises in Monterey Bay. It should also be noted that not all of these companies are equally “devoted” to whale watching. Some companies exclusively focus on whale watching and do so all year round, whereas others focus on a variety of boating experiences and offer cruises only during certain seasons (like during the gray whale migration season).

Santa Cruz:
Santa Cruz Whale Watching
Chardonnay II

Moss Landing:
Blue Ocean
Sanctuary Cruises

Monterey Bay Whale Watch
Princess Monterey Whale Watching
Chris’ Whale Watching
Randy’s Fishing and Whale Watching Trips

As you can see, there are plenty of whale watching cruises in Monterey Bay. We recommend booking with whatever whale watching cruise company is the most convenient. If you are in Santa Cruz, for instance, it is probably a good idea to go with Santa Cruise Whale Watching, as this company will provide you with something comparable to what all the other companies are offering, and you don’t have to travel too far to get to the departure point in Santa Cruz’s harbor. The one exception to this rule is if you find a cruise company that is offering some sort of promotional deal, which for whatever reason is frequently the case in the world of whale watching. It is therefore worth skimming through websites we linked to above to see if anyone of them is offering some sort of deal. In any case, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a whale watching outfit that is convenient to sail with and provides a quality experience.

whale watching cruises

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