Why whale watch in Orange County?
It's so great to be able to hop on a boat and enjoy an abundance of marine life that's not trapped in a tank, right here in our own backyard. Not only is Orange County right along the gray whale migration route which takes place late January through May, but in the summer months, blue, humpback, fin, and minke whales show up to feed on krill and anchovies. While whales can be hit or miss here, dolphins are seen pretty much on a daily basis! Common dolphin are the main dolphin seen off Orange County year round. Bottlenose and Risso's dolphin can be seen any month out of the year as well but not as consistently, they show up whenever squid is in the area (their main diet). Pacific white-sided dolphins show up along the coast in winter months since they prefer colder water.
How are whales found?
The only way to find whales is simply by eyesight as there is no technology other than that to find whales. Things to look for: Spouts, splashing, and seabirds. Some whale spouts can be spotted from 5 miles away! There are no spotter planes or trackers, however all of the official whale watching boats communicate with each other to help find whales, this is why it's important to ONLY use the whale watching companies listed below since there are other companies that do not communicate with other boats (although they might tell you they do).
How many options are there?
While you may see many whale watch tours/excursions advertised online, according to the cities of Dana Point and Newport Beach as well as The U.S. Coast Guard, these are the only legally operating companies: Dana Wharf, Davey's Locker, Dolphin Safari, Newport Coastal Adventure, and Newport Landing. All these companies communicate with each other to help find whales/dolphins. There are other options you will find listed online but booking with anyone other than the companies listed below greatly reduces your odds of finding animals due to lack of experience, knowledge, and communication with these other companies. Some of these other companies will appear as legitimate companies with fake reviews on review platforms, stolen photos on website, and fake followers on social media platforms like Instagram to appear as a reputable company. We can't stress it enough to invest your time/money in the following companies only (alphabetical order):
Here are photos and videos taken off the coast of Orange County