Whale Watching, Southern California, Hotel, Resort, Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

Whale Watching in Southern California

The coastline of Southern California is one of the world’s most beautiful, but those glinting Pacific waters have more to offer than mere scenery.

This also happens to be one of the best places on the planet to watch its biggest animals in their natural element. We’re talking, of course, about whales. As an Inn at Rancho Santa Fe guest, you may be relaxing in the lap of luxury in the foothills, but you’re not exactly landlocked: the ocean and its lovely leviathans are really just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

A Little California Whale 101

Here in California, we’re lucky to have a wide variety of whales and dolphins native to our long and diverse swath of the Pacific Ocean. Off San Diego, a number of baleen whales—the genuine giants—are commonly seen. Most notably there’s the gray whale, which every year makes a breathtakingly impressive migration between Baja California (where the grays calve) and Alaska (for summer feeding). That means we have the chance to see these barnacled beauties twice annually: on the northbound migration in late winter and spring, and again southbound in early to mid-winter.

Spring through fall, it’s not unusual to glimpse two other baleen migrants in our waters: humpbacks, known for their wing-like pectoral flippers and acrobatics, and blue whales, the very biggest of the big. California’s blue whales are part of one of the healthiest populations on Earth.

But there’s no telling what you might see out there: fin whales, sperm whales (Moby-Dick’s clan), orcas (killer whales), sprightly pods of dolphins—who knows?

Whale-Watching Tours

While shore-based observations of marine mammals is definitely an option along the Southern California coast, a more immersive (and faster-paced) option for our guests here at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe interested is taking a whale-watching cruise via Xplore Offshore. You can’t beat the intimacy of this adventure, carried out as it is in a fleet, custom-built rigid-inflatable boat (RIB) under the steady and experienced piloting of U.S. Coast Guard-certified Captain Russell Moore.

Xplore Offshore offers a variety of different packages to choose from, and while sightings of whales and dolphins are never guaranteed—these are wild creatures inhabiting a fickle medium, after all—you couldn’t ask for better odds. Besides those cetaceans, you might spot harbor seals, California sea lions, sunfish, a plethora of different seabirds, and other marine life.

Whatever the time of year, you definitely have a chance of seeing free-swimming whales and dolphins do their thing off the San Diego coastline, so consider taking advantage of the proximity afforded at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe and go looking for spouts—and, if you’re lucky, maybe a breach or two!