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Monterey Bay Whale Watch | Whale & Dolphin Watching

Responsible Whale Watch Member

Monterey Bay Whale Watch offers year-round whale watching trips to observe the spectacular diversity and abundance of whales and dolphins inhabiting the Bay.

Monterey is the best place in the nation to view a variety of marine mammals and seabirds. The Monterey Submarine Canyon approaches close to the shore, allowing deep water species of whales, dolphins, and seabirds to occur near the coast. Shallow water species, such as the gray whale, are found very close to shore in the narrow shelf region.

Depending on the season, whales and dolphins that are frequently observed include Gray Whales, Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins, Northern Right Whale Dolphins, Common Dolphins, Killer Whales, and Dall's Porpoise. We occasionally spot Fin Whales, Minke Whales, Harbor Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphins, and Beaked Whales.

Our captains have over 20 years of experience with nature trips and offer excellent views of marine wildlife. All our trips are led by marine biologists, most with 10+ years experience, who fully narrate and answer questions during trips. Our whale watching trips are educationally oriented and our biologists collect valuable data on the marine mammals sighted during these trips, including distribution, relative abundance, and behavior of whales and dolphins. We also photo-identify individual whales and dolphins, contributing to assessments of population, residency patterns, and migration or movement patterns.

We are unique in that we are the only whale watching group that has marine biologists on all trips, offers trips in Monterey Bay on a regular basis, schedules trip lengths depending on the season to allow enough time to watch whales and other marine life, and has the most skilled captains who know where to find whales and how to approach them. There is a world of difference between our quality trips and shorter trips offered by others, providing merely a quick glimpse of a whale with no information. That's why we are considered the best of the whale watches in Monterey Bay!


January • February • March • April • May • June • July • August • September • October • November • December


Short (1-3 hours) • Half-day (3-6 hours)

Vessel types

Large boat (50+ passengers) • Small boat (0-50 passengers)

Times and prices

Summer / Fall (Mid April - Mid Dec): Morning trip departs 9am, returns 1-2pm Adults $45, children 12 and under $35, children 3 and under free Afternoon trip departs 2pm, returns 5-6pm Adults $36, children 12 and under $25, children 3 and under free Winter / Spring (Mid Dec - Mid April): Daily trips, 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. 7 a.m. breakfast trips on some weekends and holidays. Adults $34, Children 12 and under $23, Children 3 and under free.

In Monterey Bay we can watch whales year-round in Dec through April we experience the Gray whale migration.

In May through Nov we see Humpback and Blue Whales plus  abundant dolphins.

About our skippers and naturalist guides

Richard Ternullo, captain of the Sea Wolf II, has been running natural history trips for over 30 years. He has a degree in Biology, is a seasoned naturalist, and has served as president of the Monterey Bay Chapter of the American Cetacean Society (ACS), a non-profit group dedicated to protecting whales and dolphins through conservation, research, and education. Richard is well known in the area for his vast knowledge of marine mammals and seabirds. He also is involved in several research projects on whales in the Bay through the Oceanic Society (non-profit) and the Killer Whale Project, and operates a marine mammal sighting network involving many boat and land sightings which are compiled and reported each month in our Sightings summary and in the ACS newsletter.

Monterey Bay Whale Watch is owned and operated by Nancy Black, the marine biologist who accompanies most trips. Nancy has a Master's of Marine Science degree from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, has worked with whales and dolphins in the region for over 10 years, and has become an expert in the biology of killer whales off the California coast. She is currently involved in several research and education programs, including primary investigator for the Oceanic Society's (non-profit) whale and dolphin research program in Monterey Bay. She works on aerial surveys for marine mammals off California with Cascadia Research, assists with field research on Alaskan killer whales with the National Marine Mammal Lab, with co-researchers has compiled a catalog of individual killer whales for California and Mexico for the National Marine Fisheries Service, and is currently photo-identifying killer whales and documenting their behavior in Monterey Bay.

Other marine biologists that may accompany trips have extensive naturalist experience and are often marine educators and/or involved in marine mammal research projects. Many are graduate students from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, affiliated with the American Cetacean Society or Oceanic Society, or work independently as marine naturalists.


Carbon neutral • Hands-on materials (bones, shells etc) • Naturalist guide(s) as well as skipper • Onboard research • PA system • Posters / displays / maps • Reading material available • Restrooms / toilets on board • Snacks / drinks • Support conservation • Use a code of conduct

We frequently

See a whale's tail • See leaping dolphins • See leaping whales • Showered by whale blows • Watch whales and dolphins

Baleen Whales

Blue Whale • Fin Whale • Gray Whale • Humpback Whale • Minke Whale • Sei Whale

Toothed Whales

Killer Whale / Orca

Beaked Whales

Baird's Beaked Whale

Ocean Dolphins

Long-beaked Common Dolphin • Northern Right Whale Dolphin • Pacific White-sided Dolphin • Risso's Dolphin • Short-beaked Common Dolphin


Dall's Porpoise • Harbour Porpoise

Other wildlife and points of interest

Sea Otters, California Sea Lions, and Harbor Seals are seen on all trips, and Northern Fur Seals and Elephant Seals are often seen.

84 Fisherman's Wharf
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whale watch heaven
Traveled: 2008-09-10, Reviewed: 2011-10-30
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
Wonderful trip, really respectful towards the animals and a lot of information about the enviroment and animals. On 2 trips we made we encountered: common & northern right whale dolphin, 40 humpbacks, Dall's porpoise and Transient Killer whales, sea lions, fur seal, n.sea elephant, seals, sea otter, albatros, blue shark etc.
I cannot recommend this company and area high enough
Rebecca Walker
10 trips in 10 days :o)
Traveled: 2011-08-27, Reviewed: 2011-09-25
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
These guys are great! We were in Monterey for 10 days and went on a trip every day (the crazy english marine biologists at the front of the boat!) The crew were really friendly and very knowledgeable - the information started as soon as we left the wharf - past the sea otters in the harbour and sea lions on the breakwater and out towards the canyon. We were there for blue whales.. and they made us work for them ;) - but we were sucessful... on two occasions! Whatever we saw, the boat was always very careful to keep a good distance, staying parallel to their direction of travel. But that seemed to be the way of all the whale watch boats we saw - i was impressed with all of them. Excellent trips for viewing a wealth of marine life and learning huge amounts about the area and what you might see... I can't recommend them enough!
Suzanne Rogers
Traveled: 2011-07-25, Reviewed: 2011-08-08
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
We chose this company because we wanted to avoid others in the area that offer both whale watching trips and sports fishing trips. I also wanted the longest time at sea possible. The trip was amazing - I wasn't expecting to see sea otters so closely in the harbour, and hadn't realised that sea lions breach and leap around so far out at sea! We saw a blue whale fluking, many species of dolphin, fin whales, and humpbacks. The best whale watching we've had so far.....very exciting.
I would have liked to have awarded maximum points but the trip runs two boats at the same time - the 'other' boat had a naturalist who we could hear talking all about the sea otters and pinnipeds on the way out of the harbour. But the marine biologist on our boat didn't really talk to us until a couple of hours into the trip. I felt that the 'other' boat had a more educational side however even on the boat we were on there was an opportunity to ask the biologist questions etc. The 'other boat' also seemed to get closer to the whales than we did - not a good thing as the guidelines say to keep distance etc but I might be overly harsh saying this as perhaps the whales approached the boat...
Overall an excellent company and fantastic whale watching - with pinnipeds and sea otters a very exciting bonus. If you also go to San Francisco during your trip then check out the marine mammal information centre at Fisherman's Wharf.
Judith Scott
The best whale watch in Monterey by far
Traveled: 2009-09-15, Reviewed: 2011-08-01
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
Monterey Bay Whale Watch is the best whale watch by a long way in Monterey, which also happens to be one of the best places in the world to see whales and dolphins. This really is the only whale watch in Monterey that has a trained Naturalist on-board and the owners of the company are Marine Biologists. This is one of the most educational whale watches I have ever been on and by spending your money here you are also helping science and conservation. You certainly cannot say that about the other trips running in the town as these boats are also sports fishing boats as well as whale watches! Not very eco friendly. I went on the other boats as well and the information given was scant and sometimes incorrect. It was just given by the skipper, there was no naturalist on the boat.
So once you have chosen the right boat, enjoy the incredible wildlife this place has to offer. With sea otters and Californian Sealions on the way out you get to the canyon and you could see an incredible array of cetaceans. Blue whales, friendly humpbacks, orcas and pods numbering in the thousands of dolphins can be seen if you are lucky. I went to see Northern Right Whale Dolphins in particular and I was not disappointed. I did have to go out every trip for a week though to see them!! It's very addictive and this is the best company you can choose.
Elfyn Pugh
Traveled: 2010-11-12, Reviewed: 2011-07-31
Safe approach to whales / dolphins
Valuable learning experience
Trip meets expectations
Minimal impact on the marine environment
Own research / support for conservation
My wife and I did this trip on a Friday in November as a prelude to the biennial American Cetacean Society conference held at the Empress hotel in Monterey and we took an 8 hour boat trip out into the famous Monterey Bay on the 'Sea Wolf II' boat operated by Monterey Bay Whale Watch and we had an eminent array of World renowned cetologists aboard which included the likes of Dr. Thomas Jefferson, Dr. Ken Balcomb and Alisa Schulman-Janiger Director of the California Killer Whale Project so we were in the capable hands of experts! The on-board naturalist guide was Kate Spencer and she was really good too. She was extremely knowledgable and quite a renowned artist on whales & dolphins too. During our voyage out into Monterey Bay and over part of the deep canyon we encountered 5 humpback whales and a pod of 4 'transient' orcas or killer whales which were well known to Miss Schulman-Janiger they were a mother orca and her 3 previous offspring known as TA216, TA216a, TA216b and TA216c. We also encountered about 300 Risso's dolphins scattered over a wide area, a blue shark and an ocean sunfish. On the voyage out of the harbour from Fisherman's Wharf we saw Californian sea-lions and sea-otters. The bird life was good too with a black footed Albatross, grey (red) phalaropes, pelicans and lots of 'loons' (Pacific divers). Overall this was an excellent and enjoyable experience. If you visit Monterey please do visit the superb World famous Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row.
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