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Marvels of Monterey – Whale Watching In California

The whales were side-by-side almost vertical with their noses pointed high in the sky – we were witnessing something truly special – a double breach (two Humpback whales flying out of the water and crashing back in at the same time) – but not just any two, this was a mother and calf, almost within touching distance of the boat!TravelBloggers.caOur guide told us she had been doing this for 15 years and this was the first time she got pictures of it! Today though, this mother and calf breached so many times for us that she was sure many of us would have a good chance at a great shot. Unfortunately for us, one of the best photo opportunities of them together was so close to the boat that both my wife and I missed it because we had our long zoom lenses on our cameras – doh!

We were in California, between Los Angeles and San Francisco at the beautiful Monterey Peninsula, a place that once you’ve arrived, you never want to leave. The drive South from San Francisco is just under two hours if you use the freeway. We ventured down the coastal road (Highway 1) and it took us about 5 ½ hours with our very frequent stops to take pictures.  TravelBloggers.caWe were here to do some whale-watching and we were not going to be disappointed. In the Monterey area the weather is constantly changing, so we pretty much had to book the charter and hope the weather would cooperate. With that in mind, we set off for Fisherman’s Wharf to check out the numerous whale watching offerings.

We chose Monterey Bay Whale Watch (, located at pier 1 in Fisherman’s Wharf as our tour guide of Monterey Bay and our whale watching excursion.

Operating year-round, they have Marine Biologists and Marine Naturalists’ on board every trip. They claim to be Monterey’s #1 whale watching operator, and after spending a morning with them we can certainly attest to that! We left the harbor a good 25 minutes or more before any of the other tour vessels, and returned long after the others had docked, disembarked and no passenger was left in sight!

Not only are the tours longer, but we actually spent more time in key areas of the ocean watching the huge Humpback and Killer (Orca) whales.

Other vessels arrived and then departed where we had stopped to watch the Humpbacks crashing in the ocean – but they missed all the good stuff! We followed a group of Orca whales for a good 45 minutes, with them getting so close they almost touched the boat! TravelBloggers.caDespite the fact that we spent plenty of time at sea, if felt like all too soon the trip was over and we had to head back to land. Fortunately though, we enjoyed plenty of whale sightings on our way back to the harbor – it was an amazing morning!

Tips Before You Go: Dress warmly, it gets pretty cold out there even on a warm day, and the weather can be very changeable. The morning was beautiful and warm when we got on board, but it quickly got very cold out on the Pacific Ocean – we were glad we’d brought our sweatshirts and thick jackets with us just in case.  A nice on-board feature is that you can purchase coffee, tea and hot chocolate at reasonable prices to help you warm up.

One more tip we should share – while the water was as smooth as glass during our excursion I’m sure there are other days where it gets a little choppier, so don’t forget to take your Gravol/anti-nausea pills – just in case!

For a terrific map of the area check out this website: Another good website we found is – it helped us a lot to figure out what the area has to offer and what we wanted to take in.

Related Articles:
Driving The Infamous California Highway 1 (San Francisco to Monterey)

Iain Shankland & Gail Shankland started blogging in order to inspire and motivate people to travel the world from their perspective – specializing in having the most fun while using the least amount of money, travelling on the cheap without sacrificing comfort.

Copyright © 2013 Iain & Gail Shankland / (at)

This original, copyrighted material may NOT be copied, used in whole or in part in any way, cut and pasted, published or otherwise reproduced in any form or in any medium – which means DO NOT post this on another website or BBS. If you want somebody else to see this, please send them a link or post a link to this page.


  1. Paul Ingram says

    Dear Iain and Gail,
    What a beautifully done photo essay. This is the region where I live and work….Lots of wine tasting and good restaurants in Carmel Valley Village where I live. Then you can drive west back toward Carmel on Carmel Valley Road. Stop at Baja Cantina [owned by Ryan Phinney’s family]. Lot’s of racing memorabilia.

    I keep pushing Laguna Seca as a possibility for the US Grand Prix. Because of the Moto GP safety improvements, the track is up to F1 standards. And the Monterey Peninsula is certainly the kind of destination the F1 crowd loves. Again, very well done.

    Paul Ingram
    Carmel Valley, CA


  2. Tom Cheshire says

    Iain & Gail,

    A great read, your Laguna Seca Vacation! That whole area is our favorite spot on this planet, though we haven’t visited many other planets yet. My wife and I are from the Oakland, CA area and honeymooned in the Monterey/Carmel area 27 ½ years ago. It is still our favorite place. We have made the visit numerous times over the years, always enjoying something new to go along with all of the pleasant past visit experiences. Obviously my favorite part is sitting under a tree at the corkscrew at Laguna Seca [Racetrack].

    The mid-October weather is always great and certainly… We have watched crowds of cars trying to go down the corkscrew at the same time with some even wedged in the crowd backwards! I’ve never gotten wet camping with a tent during that weekend, which historically was once the CART weekend.

    There are more Great restaurants in that area than you can imagine. I have also enjoyed other of your writings over the past several years, but my wife and I almost cried reading about your vacation. Hoping to see you in Oct.

    Wishing you the best,
    Tom Cheshire
    Castro Valley, CA


  3. Pingback: Between Los Angeles & San Francisco Is A Picture-Perfect Piece Of Paradise – Monterey |

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