Humpback whales migrate south toward tropical seas every winter after feeding in the arctic during the summer. Whales linger in warmer waters to mate, give birth and nurse young. The winter migration is an ideal time to glimpse the playful and acrobatic behavior of this type of whale. From Hawaiian adventures to San Diego sightseeing tours for whale watching San Diego, here are five of the best places to spot humpback whales.
- Maui, Hawaii
You have the best chance of seeing migrating whales in Hawaii. More than 10,000 humpbacks head toward the warm, tropical waters off of these islands to breed during the winter. Wailea Beach in Maui is one of the best destinations for whale watching during the migration season, which runs from January through April. Look out for humpbacks out at sea while on shore or book a guided boat tour that can come as close as 100 yards (90 meters) to whales.
- San Diego, California
San Diego is another ideal location for watching humpbacks pass by on their winter migration route. This coastal city can be a convenient mainland destination for whale watchers in the U.S. The best time of year for whale sightings San Diego starts in mid-December and continues through April. In addition to humpbacks, gray whales and finbacks may also be seen from shore or on a guided boat tour.
- Sea of Cortez, Baha California, Mexico
The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, is known as the “aquarium of Mexico.” This biodiverse body of water is an ideal destination for watching the humpback winter migration between January and April. While whales can also be seen on the Pacific side of Baja, humpbacks prefer these calm waters for birthing, feeding and nursing young. Guided tours are available throughout the season and whales can be seen frolicking close to the coast.
- Turtle Bay, Oahu
Turtle Bay is located on the north shore of Oahu and is home to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. While much of the north shore is not safe for swimming during the winter months, Turtle Bay has relatively calm waters. The Sanctuary Ocean Count is a volunteer on-shore humpback whale tracking project that takes place every year over three days near the end of January, February and March.
- Monterey Bay, California
The Monterey Submarine Canyon is a deep ocean trench that brings humpback whales and other marine species closer to shore. In addition to the winter migration period, several hundred migrating humpbacks are also part of the “local” population that continues to feed on krill and schooling fish in this area through November.
Humpback whales migrate up to 16,000 miles every year from feeding to mating grounds. Sightings of humpback whales during the winter migration are most likely at these locations between January and March. Whether you head to mainland U.S. destinations such as San Diego or Monterey, cross the border into Mexico or travel to the Hawaiian Islands, you may be able to spot whales from shore or get a closer look on a boat.