12 Best Whale Watching Places in the World

1
Tourists on a whale watching tour

Anyone who’s ever seen a whale boldly breaching the waves will tell you it’s the experience of a lifetime. There’s something magical about these gentle giants, and there are great spots all over the world for watching them. Here are the best whale-watching places in the world.

The whale-watching experience is unlike any other, and for travelers worldwide, it’s a pilgrimage and a fantastic experience to see these creatures in their natural habitat. Few things are more humbling than being in the presence of such majestic creatures.

Where is best for whale watching?

One of the premier destinations for whale watching is Hermanus, South Africa. Recognized globally for its unparalleled land-based whale-watching experiences, Hermanus offers visitors the chance to witness the majestic Southern Right Whales in their natural habitat.

Not only can enthusiasts view these gentle giants from the coastline, but they can also embark on boat tours for an up-close encounter. Every September, the town comes alive with the annual Hermanus Whale Festival, celebrating the migration of these magnificent creatures.

The world is vast, and there are several other renowned spots for whale enthusiasts. Here are some top contenders on our list.

  1. Hervey Bay, Australia: A haven for humpback whales.
  2. Roseau, Dominica: Known for its sperm whale population.
  3. Maui, Hawaii, USA: Witness the annual humpback whale migration.
  4. Juneau, Alaska, USA: Spot orcas and humpback whales in their natural habitat.
  5. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada: A hotspot for orcas.
  6. San Juan Islands, Washington, USA: Ideal for viewing orcas and gray whales.
  7. Puerto Madryn, Argentina: Home to the Southern Right Whales.
  8. San Diego, California, USA: A diverse marine ecosystem with blue, gray, and humpback whales.

Best Whale Watching Places in the World

Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura is a small town with a big reputation as a center for eco-tourism and the best whale-watching place in the world. It’s located on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island and is blessed with spectacular marine life.

You’ll find fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and seafaring birds in addition to sperm whales year-round and seasonal visits from humpbacks and even the great blue whales. The deep underwater canyon that flanks its shores attracts this rich and diverse population to Kaikoura.

Of course, Whale spotting tourists are drawn to the whales – there are various methods to view them, from simply strolling along the gorgeous beaches to flying over the water in a four-seater Cessna.

See Related: Best All-Inclusive Resorts Without a Passport

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod was a center of American whaling in the early 17th century, and today, it’s one of the best whale-watching places in the world.

Whales are so common here that many local whale-watching tours will give you your money back if you don’t see a whale during the peak season between April and October.

Humpback, minke, and finback whales are regularly spotted gliding through the Atlantic waters around Cape Cod, and now and then, you’ll have the rare sight of a northern right whale with her calf in the spring.

Hermanus, South Africa

Whale off the coast of Hermanus, South Africa
faruk / Adobe Stock

This is it if you need an excuse to visit the Riviera of the South. Hermanus is located at the southernmost point of the African continent, in beautiful Walker Bay, and its lovely coastline is graced with whale sightings directly from the shore.

Hermanus is a picturesque town that has seamlessly merged its rich cultural history with pristine natural beauty. Already a great tourist destination, the warm, shallow ocean water here attracts southern right whales during the mating and breeding season — June through November.

With its clear waters, Walker Bay provides a front-row seat to this spectacular show. One unique feature that sets Hermanus apart from other whale-watching destinations is the presence of a ‘Whale Crier.’ This individual roams the streets with a kelp horn, announcing where whales can be seen, keeping the town in tune with the rhythm of the ocean.

You can walk along a 6-mile cliffside path to see adults and their calves at play. There are benches, telescopes, and lots of whale information along the way. Hermanus hosts an annual whale festival every year at the end of September, so that’s a great time to arrive.

The Azores, Portugal

Azores Whale Watching Places in the World
Photo: Tim Ellis

The Azores are a chain of volcanic islands with plenty of natural beauty. From April through October, the blue Atlantic waters are filled with sperm whales, northern bottlenose, pilot whales, and even the spectacular great blue whales.

Locals will tell you the best spots for whale-watching are between the islands of Faial, Pico, and Sao Jorge — and the snow-capped top of Ponta do Pico makes an incredibly scenic backdrop. Do the viewing onshore from towers called “vigias” or take a boat tour to get up close and personal.

Los Cabos, Mexico

Could there possibly be a more perfect destination for whale-watching than Los Cabos? With immaculate beaches, fabulous luxury resorts, and a perfect climate all year, many reasons exist to spend time here.

But January through April, Los Cabos is also home to a large population of migrating gray whales, humpbacks, great blue whales, and sperm whales.

These long-distance travelers swim 6,000 miles from Alaska to the warm lagoons of Los Cabos to mate and raise their calves yearly. Boat tours for whale-watching are plentiful here, and you’ll likely see adults breaching and spouting and babies at play.

See Related: Amazing Southwestern Vacation Destinations

Maui, Hawaii

Humback Whale in Maui, Hawaii
manuel / Adobe Stock

Maui is one of the best places in the world for whale watching because of its ideal location in the Pacific Ocean. Every year, humpback whales migrate to the waters around Maui to give birth and mate.

These whales can often be seen breaching and spouting just off the coast. In addition to humpbacks, you can see a variety of other species, including dolphins.

Dominica

Swimming Next to a Sperm Whale in Dominica
Janos / Adobe Stock

Dominica is one of the best places in the world for seeing whales in their natural habitat. Sperm whales, pilot whales, and humpback whales are all common here. In addition, Dominica is also home to many different types of dolphins.

Boat tours are available to take you out onto the water, for it is one of the best places in the world for whale watching because of its many different whale species.

Sperm whales, pilot whales, and humpback whales are all common here. In addition, Dominica is also home to many different types of dolphins.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Dana Point, California

Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia

seeing Whales in Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay is an excellent place to watch whales. The bay is located on the east coast of Australia and is known for its great whale spotting opportunities.

Several companies offer whale-watching tours, and the whales can often be seen from the shore. Hervey Bay is a beautiful area, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in whale watching.

San Juan Islands, Washington / Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Canada

Two Orca Whales off the coast of the San Juan Islands
Richard / Adobe Stock

The next best whale-watching place is in the San Juan Islands in Washington, USA. The San Juans are a group of islands located in Puget Sound, and they’re known for their large population of orcas (killer whales), making it one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world.

Pair that with its convenient location near both the Vancouver Islands and the San Juan Islands; it provides easy access to the Pacific Coast no matter where you come from.

Several companies offer boat tours to see the orc, and you can also see them from the shore in some areas. The San Juans are a beautiful place to visit, offering some of the best places to spot whales worldwide.

San Diego, California

Tail of a Whale in San Diego, California
ronniechua / Adobe Stock

San Diego is indisputably one of the world’s best places to go whale watching. Many different types of whales can be seen here, including gray whales, blue whales, humpback whales, and even orcas on occasion.

You’ll probably even spot a few sea lions simply on your way to get on the boat tour. The San Diego coastline is one of the best places to spot these majestic creatures, and many whale-watching tour operators offer guided tours.

So whether you’re a seasoned whale-watcher or just curious about these amazing animals, San Diego is unquestionably the place to go.

Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Valdes Peninsula

If you want to see some of the world’s most fascinating creatures up close, a trip to Argentina’s Puerto Madryn is necessary. This is one of the best places in the world to see the Southern right whales and other whales, such as humpback and orcas.

The province is home to many tourist attractions, including a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most incredible locations in the world to go whale watching.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik Iceland Lighthouse

Go whale watching in Iceland! A few tour operators offer whale-watching tours from Reykjavik, and you’ll have the opportunity to see some of the world’s most amazing creatures.

The best time to go whale watching is between April and October, when the water is warmer and more whales are in the area. Keep your eyes peeled for minke whales, humpback whales, killer whales, and blue whales – you might even spot a beluga or narwhal!

See Related: Best Vacations in the US

Perce/Tadoussac, Quebec, Canada

Whale swimming

Whale-watching tours in Perce, Quebec, are some of North America’s best whale-watching tours. The area is known for its large population of beluga whales and its many different types of dolphins.

You can also occasionally see minke, orca, and even blue whales. Whale-watching tours in Perce are a great way to see these amazing creatures up close and personal. If you’re searching for an unforgettable experience, whale-watching tours in Perce are unquestionably the way to go.

See Related: Next Vacay vs Going.com

Tips for Planning a Whale Watching Boat Tour & Vacation

Whale watching is a great activity for travelers of all ages. Whether you’re an experienced humpback whale watcher or this is your first time, there’s something special about seeing these creatures in their natural habitat.

Here are some tips for planning your whale-watching trip.

1. Choose the right time of year.

With this first point, you must still determine what whales you want to see. If you want to observe humpback whales, that’s a different consideration than a sperm whale. The best time to see whales is during their migratory seasons. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is typically between April and October.

In the Southern Hemisphere, whale season is generally between November and March. Check with local Whale Watching Centers for specific dates and times.

2. Pick the right location.

There are many great whale-watching spots around the world. Choosing the right place for your whale-watching boat tour depends on what type of whale you want to see. In general, some of the best places to see whales include:

  • Alaska: Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan are all great Alaska towns for spotting whales. You can also take a day trip from Anchorage to Whittier or Seward to see whales.
  • California: Dana Point is one of the best spots in California for whale watching. You can also spot whales from Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco.
  • Hawaii: Maui is the best place for spotting whales in Hawaii. You can also see whales on the Big Island, Oahu, and Kauai.
  • Canada: Vancouver Island is a great place for whale watching in Canada. Tofino and Victoria are both excellent spots for seeing orcas, humpback whales, and other marine life on the

3. Choose the right tour.

This can’t be stressed enough. Whale-watching tours vary greatly in length, price, and amenities. Many great tour operators offer whale-watching tours in the locations listed above. When choosing a tour, consider your budget, time constraints, and what type of experience you’re looking for.

4. Be prepared for the weather.

Whale watching is an outdoor activity, so dress appropriately for the weather. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water.

5. Don’t forget your camera.

You’ll want to capture your once-in-a-lifetime whale-watching experience, so don’t forget to bring a high-quality digital camera or action video like a GoPro or DJI.

With these tips in mind, you will surely have a great time whale watching. Remember, the best time to see whales is during their migratory seasons. So plan your trip accordingly and get ready for an unforgettable experience.

FAQ

Where is the best place to see humpback whales?

There are many great places to see humpback whales around the world. One of the best locations is off the coast of Hawaii. You can often see these majestic creatures breaching the surface and playing in the waves here.

Another great spot is Greenland, where humpback whales come to feed in cold waters. If you want to see humpback whales in their natural habitat, these are two of the best places to go.

What is the best time to go whale watching?

The best time to see whales is May and September when they migrate through the area. However, if you want to see humpback whales, we recommend September-January. During this time, you can also see other marine life, such as dolphins, turtles, and stingrays.

Where is the best place in the world to go whale watching?

Alaska boasts a number of whale-watching opportunities. Orcas, belugas, and humpbacks are just a few of the many kinds of cetaceans that may be observed throughout Alaska.

Related Resources

Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One thought on “12 Best Whale Watching Places in the World

  1. Avatar of Kate

    Perhaps a trip to Cape Cod is in order for me soon, since that is a bit more do-able in the near future than the Azores… I saw a bit of a whale tail on a cruise in Alaska, and it is just such an awe-inspiring animal. I definitely want to go whale watching soon. It’s funny, it always felt like an old people activity to me – I always thought I should be doing active things while I am young and save the whale watching for when I am old… but why wait to see something so amazing?!