How to Go Whale Watching in Oceanside

By Suzanne Davis

There are few ocean adventures for landlubbers more exciting than spying a beast of the sea in real life. It’s nothing less than cinematic, from the animal’s herculean size, to the bursts of mist it spews into the air like fireworks made of water. That’s right: we’re talking about whale watching. And many people are surprised to learn that Oceanside, California is one of the best places to do it. 

String of three whales

Why is Oceanside one of the Best Spots for Whale Watching

Because the town straddles whale migration routes within the Pacific Ocean, you can often spot these aquatic mammals in the waters beyond the 1,954-foot-long Oceanside Pier –– built in 1888˛and an easy one-block walk from Mission Pacific Hotel. But insiders know the most memorable way to see a whale is from a ship itself—just like Moby Dick’s Ishmael. Depending on the season, you might spot 60,000-pound gray whales, minke whales (known for their friendly personalities), 52-foot-long humpback whales bigger than a catamaran, strings of two or more whales together (legend has it, these sightings are the origin of the sea serpent myth), and even dolphins. 

“Currently we are in the gray whale season, which runs until May; however, we just finished a tremendous summer and we had our best November ever for humpback whales, which are year-round in Oceanside,” says Donna Kalez, who co-owns Oceanside Adventures (, a partner of Mission Pacific Hotel, with her family. “We have also been seeing fin whales year-round.” 

In short: plenty of opportunities for watery “wow moments!” Here is everything you need to know about how to go whale watching in Oceanside. 

Boy overlooking whale

 Types of Whale Watching Cruises

Whether you want a rugged and adventurous whale-watching experience or a more luxurious one (cue the champagne!), Oceanside Adventures likely has a cruise you can use. 

Whale and Dolphin Watching Luxury Cruises On these two-hour tours, you may spot fin whales, blue whales, humpback whales and all four kinds of dolphins from a gleaming 49-passenger catamaran. 

Wine Sunset Cruise Imagine taking in a jaw-dropping pink sunset and spying dolphins and other creatures of the sea—all while you sip local wine from Beach House Winery and nibble appetizers galore. On this 90-minute cruise for guests 21 and up, that’s exactly what will happen. Bliss!


Whales and birds


Q&A About Whale-Watching in Oceanside

If you’ve never been whale-watching, you may have nearly as many questions as there are types of fish in the sea. Read on for the need-to-know info with intel from Oceanside Adventures. 

How close will we get to whales?

Boats are required by law—specifically, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which was passed to protect and preserve these species and their ecosystem—to stay 100 yards away from whales. But that doesn’t stop these gentle giants from often coming right up to greet whale watching boats all on their own! Be sure to BYO camera to capture as many postcard-worthy images as possible of these magical mammals (and hold on tight: you don’t want it to go overboard!).

How far offshore will we go?

The boat can get up to seven miles out to sea, but typically stays closer to the shoreline. That’s because gray whales and blue whales tend to navigate the coast and keep just around a mile out from the sandy shores. 

Are kids allowed?

Oceanside Adventures welcomes all ages, but children aged 2 and under are not recommended. 

Will I get seasick? 

If you’ve been prone to a queasy feeling at sea, take a few precautions. Although the dual-hull catamaran that Ocean Adventures has is stable, the ocean is the ocean—and it’s better to be safe than sorry (not to mention sickly!).