Sightings Every Day

Whale Watching Season Starts December 10

Purchase Tickets

Whale Watching Report 2016

DateMorning CruiseNotes
09/03/2016300+ common dolphins

Our last day on the water for the blue whale season! As hard as Captain Jules tried, we couldn't find any large whales! Our small group of passengers were delighted with 300 common dolphins with many calves. The ocean was mostly calm and the sun finally came out as we were coming back in. The many kids onboard enjoyed making origami whales and whale tracings.

09/02/2016200+ common dolphins, Risso's dolphins, 1 mola mola

We began our cruise with calm seas and partly cloudy skies that later cleared to a beautiful sunny day. While baleen whales eluded us today, guests enjoyed watching about 200 common dolphins and 30 Risso's dolphins- a larger dolphin species that reaches 10 to 12 foot (3-3.8 meter) lengths. Adult Risso's dolphins are typically gray with white scars covering much of their body, especially the head region. This scarring is from a combination of rake marks (scratches from the teeth of other Risso's during dominance interactions), bites from squid (their main prey) or circular bite marks from cookie cutter shark parasites. Since we don't often see Risso's dolphins, it is always a treat to watch this unusual species!

08/29/2016300+ common dolphins, 2 hammerhead sharks

We traveled almost 20 miles out of the Bay today searching for whales. While we didn't find any large whales, guests enjoyed watching several large pods of common dolphins. We also spotted two hammerhead sharks. Another beautiful day on the water!

08/28/20161 humpback whale, 200+ common dolphin, 1 mola mola

We began our whale watching cruise with calm seas and somewhat overcast skies. Captain Chad spotted a mola mola (ocean sunfish) and we enjoyed watching a humpback whale that repetitively fluked and seemed intent on feeding. In addition, a couple hundred common dolphins joined us for a while riding the bow of the ship. A perfect way to start the day!

08/27/2016300+ common dolphins

It was an overcast day, not too hot - not too cold. We saw spotted jellyfish before we left the dock and on the way out of the harbor and numerous sea lions resting on the channel markers. Once we were out in the ocean, we came across over 300 Common Dolphins in several different pods throughout the day. The dolphins were very active, jumping out of the water and surfing the boat wake. Unfortunately, we did not see any whales. Still, it was a beautiful and relaxing day on the water!

08/26/20162 minke whales, 500+ common dolphins, 1 blue shark

Another great day with some unusual sightings in addition to the always enjoyable common dolphins. We spotted 2 minke whales, and one of the minkes remained near the Adventure Hornblower giving guests a great look at this normally shy whale species. We also encountered a blue shark, which many of the guests and even the docents did not know existed. Blue sharks are a pelagic (open ocean) species in temperate (cool) and tropical waters worldwide. They are named for the gorgeous deep blue color of the dorsal (top) part of their bodies that extends into white below. Blue sharks usually grow to a a maximum of 10 to 12 feet (3-3.8 meter) lengths. These long, sleek hunters feed on a variety of squid, cuttlefishes, octopuses, fishes,, shrimp and crabs. They are listed as a near-threatened species due to population declines mostly from bycatch (accidental catch in nets set for other species).

08/22/2016250 common dolphins, 100 bottlenose dolphins, mola mola, bonito fish

We tried hard to find a whale but there weren’t any out there today. We saw everything that was out there though!! Started the morning with a nice pod of common dolphins, then found a school of bonito fish feeding on bait and jumping out of the water, then saw a very large mola mola, had great looks at it, very large with lots of white patches and bright yellowish lips. Then finished our morning with 100 plus bottlenose
dolphin jumping out of the water and "Patches" the white patched dolphin was in the mix as well. Got great looks at everything!! Very nice day on the pacific ocean!

08/21/2016350 common dolphins

Beautiful, sunny day with calm waters in both bay and open ocean. At least 350 common dolphin were seen, playing in the bow wave and jumping/flipping in the wake. Visitors from all over the world enjoyed the lovely day. Unfortunately, whales were not seen.

08/20/20162 sunfish

No whales today but we did see 2 sunfish, and had a beautiful day out on the water.

08/19/20162 humpback whales, 1000 common dolphins

We saw 2 humpback whales, separately with one coming close to the boat. They both fluked a couple of times. Captain did a great job positioning the boat for the best whale views. We then saw a pod of 1000 common dolphins. A very nice day on the ocean!

08/15/2016300+ common dolphins, 2 hammerhead sharks

While we couldn't find any baleen whales today, we did see a lot of other marine life during our whale watch trip. We had two fantastic sightings of hammerhead sharks. We also saw lots of different species of seabirds including a couple of brown boobies and a large flock of storm petrels. Guests also enjoyed two large and playful pods of common dolphins displaying lots of activity out of the water.Overall, another great morning on the Pacific!

08/14/2016300+ common dolphins

Calm seas and beautiful sunshine, with folks from around the world. A pod more than 250 common dolphins with several calves played with boat and brought smiles to everyone.

08/13/20161 humpback whale, 1 hammerhead shark

Another beautiful day on the water! Captain Jules found the same humpback whale we watched yesterday, which showed us some nice tail slaps and one far away breach. Everyone was able to get some great looks at the humpback. Right before we left a hammerhead shark showed up, While hammerheads are typically found a little farther south than San Diego, we have been seeing them fairly often this summer, probably as a result of the warmer waters from to the current El Niño Southern Oscillation event in the Eastern Pacific.

08/12/20161 humpback whale, 500+ common dolphins

It was a near perfect day for whale watching on Friday, August 12th. There were some clouds to keep it a little cooler, very good visibility and calm seas .

About six miles we encountered a humpback whale feeding on fish. It stayed on the surface quite a bit and did shallow dives with nice tail flukes displayed. It also was turning in the water a lot, probably as it was chasing fish. While we were watching the humpback, a large pod of common dolphins (500+) joined in the feeding. There was lots of leaping all around the boat. As we left the area, we were treated to close up views of the dolphins riding our bow wave.

We had several expert birders on board who pointed out some of the birds who were also feeding on the fish. These included elegant and royal terns, Brandt's cormorants and black-vented and sooty shearwaters.

There were many happy faces back at the dock after an amazing day in the Pacific Ocean!

08/08/20161 humpback whale, 200+ common dolphins

Gray skies didn't stop guests on board the Adventure today from enjoying watching a juvenile humpback whale feeding just a few miles off Pt. Loma. The humpback showed us its flukes several times as it dove making for a great whale watching experience. Common dolphins, however, were the the real show stoppers today…three pods were sighted, including one that engaged in a "dolphin stampede!"

08/07/20162 blue whales

Luck was with us today! Captain Joe headed out to 9-Mile Bank and, within fifteen minutes found our first blue whale, We confirmed that is was a blue whale with its flat, u-shaped head. The whale did not venture too far from the first sighting for a second sighting. At that sighting, VIOLA, a second blue whale surfaced giving us excellent views of two blue whales!. We enjoyed multiple viewings of both whales.

08/06/20161 minke whale, 100+ common dolphins

Windy and choppy conditions and lots of swell on the ocean made it a challenge to find baleen whales today. Captain Jules headed west to find a minke whale that spouted once. On the way in, guest enjoyed watching about 100 common dolphins.

08/05/2016200+ common dolphins, storm petrels

While we didn't find any baleen whales today, guests enjoyed watching a herd of playful and energetic common dolphins for about a half hour. We also came across a large raft of storm petrels out past 9-mile Bank.

08/01/20161 minke whale, 250+ common dolphins, 20 bottlenose dolphins

We began our trip with the usual seabirds and sea lions and about 20 bottlenose dolphins in the bay. We traveled way out west to find one mike whale, which we watched for about 30 minutes as it calmly fed. The minke kept poking its face out of the water so we could see the white on his chin and throat pleats. That combined with scattered common dolphins on the way in and out and perfect weather made for a really nice morning.

07/31/2016500+ common dolphins, no baleen whales, 2 hammerhead sharks

Although we had calm seas and an abundance of sunshine, we didn't spot any baleen whales today. We did enjoy watching 500+ common dolphins and 2 hammerhead sharks.

07/30/20161 humpback whale, 25+ common dolphins

It was a beautiful sunny morning! As we headed out we enjoyed the beautiful views of the San Diego Harbor and the great narration that Hornblower provided. It was so nice being out on the water as we headed out to the nine mile bank. But it was not until the way back about 3 miles from Point Loma that we spotted our whale! It was a juvenile humpback whale that gave us plenty of blows and liked showing us his back and fin. But the exciting thing was after a dive he popped up about 25 feet from the boat! Everybody was thrilled to see him and hear him breathe so close to the boat. At the same time Captain Joe noticed some common dolphins in the near distance. He moved the boat a little closer to the 25 or so Common Dolphins and they came over to visit our boat. All the cameras were snapping and the people laughing and smiling from ear to ear. A great Saturday on the water!

07/29/20162 blue whales, 300+ common dolphins

We traveled way out west to find one juvenile blue whale, got really good views of this curious little guy that spent a lot of time on the surface. On the way out we saw more than 300 common dolphins scattered around the area, just before we headed back in we spotted another taller spout and found our second blue whale which was a full-sized adult. Got a couple looks at it before it sunk down and disappeared on us. Overall a great morning!

07/25/2016300+ common dolphins, no baleen whales

While viewing conditions were good today-- the seas were calm and overcast-- the large baleen whales eluded us again today. We did spot a herd of about 300 common dolphins today, which are always fun to watch. Common dolphins are aptly named, since we see them nearly every whale watch trip. They are found in warm temperate to tropical waters in oceans worldwide . This beautiful dolphin has an hourglass pattern on each side that dips to a "V" below the dorsal fin. These active dolphins often socialize in loose herds of 50+ to sometimes several thousand or more individuals.

07/24/2016200+ common dolphins, no baleen whales, lots of terns and cormorants

Today we were treated to warm, sunny, and fairly calm conditions. Bird life was fairly abundant today. Just after leaving San Diego Bay, we noticed 50+ terns (mostly Caspian and royal terns, also some elegant and Forster's terns) flying by, several terns were carrying small fish in their bills. While we spotted 100+ common dolphins outside of the Bay on both the trip out and back, we did not see any baleen whales today. Captain Chad did spot a blow in the distance and tried to get us closer for a look, that whale eluded us.

07/23/2016500+ common dolphins, no baleen whales

Heavy fog rolled in at the beginning of the cruise making visibility low. We did encounter a herd of 500+ common dolphins, which were enjoyed by all, but did not see any large whales today.

07/22/20161 blue whale, 300+ common dolphins

We started with a thick fog bank rolling in all the way out to 9-Mile Bank. The fog lifted to a beautiful, sunny day and we immediately spotted 300 common dolphins giving a great display. Captain Jules also found a blue whale, which all enjoyed watching. The blue whale was close enough to see the entire outline of the whale. We could even see the blue's brilliant turquoise blue color just beneath the deep blue water. Overall, an awesome day for passengers from Israel, China, Scotland and many of the U.S. States to enjoy!

07/18/20161 blue whale, 500+ common dolphins

What a perfect day! Blue skies, sunny, calm seas and lots of marine animal activity. First we watched the ever-present California sea lions resting on the buoys. Out on the ocean, we came across a large group of common dolphins feeding before Captain Jules spotted blows on the horizon. Could it be a blue whale? As the boat went closer, we could verify that, yes, it was a blue whale -- the largest mammal on earth! We remained at a safe distance while watching the blue whale breathe at the surface, dive under, come back up, and show us its flukes! When it was time to return to dock, we passed by two more pods of Common Dolphins who swam close to the boat, jumping, diving, and clearly visible under the clear Pacific waters.

07/17/20161 blue whale, 100+ common dolphins

It was another gorgeous day in San Diego on the Hornblower Whale watching boat. Captain Chad spotted a blue whale about 10 + miles out. Afterwards on our way back we encountered nice mega pod of common Dolphins on a feeding frenzy. Some of the dolphins were leaping into the air and traveling on the surface, a very exciting thing to see!

07/16/20162 blue whales, 50 common dolphins

Today we had plenty of sunshine and flat seas — perfect conditions for the captain to find us two blue whales. Guests also enjoyed an encounter with more than 50 common dolphins.

07/15/2016500+ common dolphins, no baleen whales, tuna, terns

While we didn't find any baleen whales today, guests still had an amazing experience! We spotted five huge balls of tightly packed bait fish with tuna leaping out of the water and feeding on the bait fish. At the same time, 50 to 70 terns dove down to catch the fish. We also saw 500 common dolphins that were riding the wake of the boat! It was a beautiful day on the water!

07/11/2016500+ common dolphins, no baleen whales

Another calm and sunny day! While guests enjoyed watching a herd of more than 500 common dolphins, no baleen whales were spotted today.

07/10/2016200+ common dolphins, 1 blue whale

We continued our trend of an abundance of sunshine and clam seas today. Guests were excited to watch a herd of more than 200 common dolphins and a solitary blue whale!

07/09/20162000+ common dolphins, 50+ Risso's dolphins, 3 humpback whales, 1 minke whale

Lot's of sunshine and flat seas led to a great show of whales today! Guests spotted more than 2,000 common dolphins, more than 50 Risso's dolphins (a less commonly seen species), 3 humpback whales (including an up-close look at one) and a minke whale.

07/08/20163 blue whales, 1 humpback whale, 500+common dolphins, 1 hammerhead shark

We began our sightings with multiple groups of common dolphins about 5 miles out that we watched for a half hour. We estimate that we spotted 1,000 to 5,000 dolphins. Many of the dolphins approached our boat to bow ride and play in the wake. Additionally, many groups of 5 to10 dolphins synchronously swam together. The birdwatchers and other guests on-board were also thrilled with "rafts" of thousands of seabirds bunched up on the surface. A few sea lions were also spotted among the groups of dolphins and birds.

We followed a juvenile humpback whale that breached and showed us its flukes for about a half hour.
Then we headed west to about 11 miles off shore and spotted the blows of three blue whales. One surfaced very close to our boat and swam slowly down the side giving us excellent views of its entire length. We saw a couple blue whales further away as well as some blows much further out.

The final hurrah was the sighting of a stationary hammerhead shark resting very close to the surface with its dorsal fin fully out of the water.

07/04/20161 blue whale, 1000+ common dolphins

What a way to start the Fourth of July - whale watching on the Hornblower! Under clearing, sunny skies the boat made its way out the bay in search of whales and other wildlife. Several pods of common dolphins were encountered before the captain reported sightings of a blue whale north off the coast from Mission Bay. Soon we were watching a big blue whale spouting, diving, and showing its bluish tint at the water's surface. It even showed its flukes on one of its dives! Several more pods of common dolphins swam alongside the boat on our way back to port. We estimate that we saw about 1000 common dolphins all together.

07/03/20161 fin whle, 1 blue whale, 1 humback whale, 400+ common dolphins

The marine layer was present Sunday morning, but that didn't dampen the spirits of over 100 passengers on the Adventure Hornblower. The captain said the visibility was about 22 miles so we could see the Coronados Islands. On the way out to deeper waters, we were accompanied by a lively pod of about 400 common dolphins. They were riding the bow and stern waves and leaping along side the ship. Out near Nine-mile Bank, we saw a small, shy fin whale, and a very large and cooperative blue whale who fluked one time. As we headed back to port, we came across a humpback whale and the common dolphin pod we saw earlier. Everyone had a wonderful time enjoying the amazing marine animals!

07/02/20162 blue whales, 300+ common dolphins,100+ bottlenose dolphins

We searched for whales under ideal conditions with plenty of sunshine and calm seas. We spotted two large adult blue whales and had a very brief glimpse of a very fast minke whale or blue whale calf. Toothed whales were also well-represented today, with sightings of more than 300 common dolphins and more than 100 bottlenose dolphins.

07/01/20161 sei whale, 1 minke whale, 2 pods of common dolphins

We began 4th of July weekend with sightings of two less commonly encountered baleen whale species, a single minke whale and a Sei whale, capped with two pods of common dolphins while leaving and returning to Point Loma. Sei whales, pronounced "say" or "sigh" are the third largest baleen whale, after the blue and fin whales, reaching lengths of 40 to 60 feet (12-18m). They are identified by the single median ridge on top of the head and a falcate (curved-back) dorsal fin that appears at the same time as the blow when the whale surfaces. Minke whales are the second smallest baleen whale, growing to 26 to 33 feet (8-10m). Minkes are strikingly patterned with a dark back. with white streaks, a white belly and a white band across the middle of each flipper, which are called "minke mittens". While a fairly common species in San Diego waters, minkes are often difficult to spot due to their inconspicuous blow.

06/27/20161 Blue Whale, 6 Bottlenose Dolphins

Guests on board the Admiral today were greeted by calm seas and a light marine layer. Not only were the conditions great, but sightings included a distant look at approximately six offshore Bottlenose Dolphins and several looks at a magnificent adult Blue Whale. Though this whale opted not to show its tail flukes when sounding, it did surface fairly close to our vessel just as the sun peeked through…..allowing everyone to see the beautiful turquoise glow for which this animal is named.


Cruise cancelled.

06/25/20161 Blue Whale, 1 Mola Mola, 300 Common Dolphins

Saturday was a great day to be out on the ocean. Lots of Sea Lions in the harbor and in the bait barges. Then nice and cool with cloud cover starting about two miles out. We had a very good crew and Captain Ernesto. We saw a pod of about 300 Common Dolphins about 8 miles straight west. Then a Mola Mola .
Then we saw a Blue Whale at eleven miles. It surfaced three separate times and stayed on the surface for about 6-9 blows each time. And it was only about 100 to 300 feet from our boat. Nice and close enough for very good viewing. To top or "tail" it off, we had three excellent full flukes. This Blue was diving straight down and the 25 foot wide fluke was awesome!!!! Plus the whale seemed to be in slow motion as it gracefully arches it's back for the dive and thus a full fluke at the end that was fully extended!! This whale was in the same approximate location as the one this crew saw Friday. Saw the same pod of dolphins on the way in. Great trip.

06/24/20161 Blue Whale, 400 Common Dolphins, 50 Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins

What a fabulous start to the Summer Whale Watching season! Under calm seas and overcast skies, on our way out to the nine mile bank, we encountered 400 Common Dolphins playfully leaping, jumping, bow riding along side the Hornblower. Then, in the distance we saw a blow or two. It was a Blue Whale, the largest mammal on earth. We stayed nearby, could hear its loud exhales and watched it fluke its tail! On the way back in we went by about 50 Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins. Seldom do you see so many at one time. Excellent trip on the water!

View More Reports »

The Best Ways to Experience Whale-Watching Season on the West Coast

  Travel Pulse by Janeen Christoff Whale migration is in full swing on the West Coast — a mass cetacean movement that takes place along thousands of miles of Pacific coastline in the cool-weather months. That means whale-watching tours are popping up as far south as Los Cabos, Mexico all the way up to British Columbia, Canada. In San Diego, whale-watching…