Whale Watching Tours

#3 in Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara
Whale Watching Tours picture1 of 2
Whale Watching Tours2 of 2
Photo by David Collier, Courtesy of Visit California/Visit Santa Barbara

Key Info

Price & Hours

Tickets vary by company
Tour times vary by company

Details

Sightseeing, Tours Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.3

scorecard

  • 3.5Value
  • 2.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

Santa Barbara is a fantastic spot to whale watch because the Santa Barbara Channel's nutrient-rich water is a popular feeding ground for several types of whales. From late spring through early fall, there are regular sightings of humpback whales and blue whales. Minke whales, fin whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, coastal bottlenose dolphins and risso's dolphins, are also often seen. From late November through April, thousands of Pacific gray whales migrate through the channel heading south to the warm water lagoons of Baja California. On their return in the spring, gray whales – most notably mothers with newborn calves – travel along the coastline heading to their summer home in the Bering Strait.

While you can sometimes spot the magnificent mammals from land, the best way to get a closer look is from the water. There are plenty of options for boat tours. Condor Express earns high marks from recent passengers, who said the boat is comfortable and describe the trip as educational. The 15-passenger Sunset Kidd sailboat offers a more intimate outing and wins favorable reviews from travelers who call it a relaxing trip. Other companies recommended by the tourism board include Captain Jack's, Celebration Cruises and Double Dolphin.

Tour lengths can vary by company. Some tours span 2 1/2 hours, while others last more than four hours. Ticket prices can also vary from $25 to $100. Visit the individual website of each company for more information.

See all Hotels in Santa Barbara »

More Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara

East Beach1 of 14
Old Mission Santa Barbara2 of 14
Type
Time to Spend
#1 East Beach

There are three major beaches in Santa Barbara: Leadbetter, West and East. While Leadbetter has the harbor and West Beach is home to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, East Beach is the best stretch to catch some rays without being mobbed by crowds. 

The shoreline may still fill up more on the weekends, but East Beach is a bit more removed from State Street and the downtown area than the other beaches, offering more space to stretch out or take a walk along the sandy shores. You may have to protect yourself from the occasional rogue volleyball though, as there are more than a dozen sandy courts here. 

Read more
Geri Lavrov/Getty Images
See full list of Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara »

Explore More of Santa Barbara

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended

The 12 Best Puerto Rico Tours

Experience island living at its best on one of these guided trips.

I Went On a Cruise During the Coronavirus Pandemic. This Is What Happened.

Coronavirus concerns, itinerary changes and uncertainty lead to an unusual vacation.

5 Travel-Themed Activities to Do at Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Use these suggestions to fill the travel void amid the pandemic.

Cancel For Any Reason Travel Insurance: What You Need to Know

If you are rescheduling a vacation or booking a future trip, consider purchasing an insurance policy with the CFAR benefit.

The 21 Best Costa Rica Tours

Dive into this natural paradise on these exceptional excursions.

Social Distancing Outside: 8 Safe Places to Go and Things to Do

Here are some creative ways to enjoy the outdoors during the coronavirus outbreak.

14 Things to Do When Your Flight Is Canceled or Delayed

Know your options when flight delays or cancellations threaten to ruin your vacation.

What Will Happen to My Elite Status and Points Because of the Coronavirus?

Limited travel due to the coronavirus prompts airline and hotel rewards programs to make policy changes.

Can You Cancel Your Flight Because of the Coronavirus?

Tips, info and more on cancellations due to the pandemic.

Virtual Tours: 35 Destinations, Museums and Attractions You Can Experience Online

Stuck at home amid the coronavirus outbreak? Enjoy museums, performances and nature from the comfort of your couch.