Recent Sightings Archives


Gray whale migration Alaska to Baja, Mexico

Gray whale season is in full swing on Monterey Bay! Each year more than 20,000 gray whales pass through Monterey Bay waters during their annual migration between Alaska and Baja, Mexico. Keep an eye out as gray whales can often be seen from shore! This winter we have a small population of humpback whales who are either staying late or arriving early. Dolphins, sea lions, otters and birds make whale watching an amazing wildlife tour.

Gray whale, Santa Cruz Whale Watching, Monterey Bay. Photo: Teddy Daligga

Gray whale, Santa Cruz Whale Watching, Monterey Bay. Photo: Teddy Daligga

Notice: From January 5th thru February 5th our main vessel Velocity will be in the shipyard undergoing a complete re-powering. She will soon be powered by engines that meet the latest EPA standards in clean burning, fuel saving marine motors.

Meanwhile we will have our smaller 6-pack charter vessel Sea Stag Six available for whale watching trips in January. The Sea Stag offers small-group and private charters to see the gray whale migration. Our on-board naturalist and captain take you to the best wildlife viewing locations! SEA STAG TRIPS AND TICKETS


Tickets are available on Velocity for trips February 13th and beyond. CLICK HERE FOR WHALE WATCHING TICKETS

New Year, New Whales

January 1, 2015 New Year’s Day. The wind is down and the sun is up, a great day for whale watching! Today we saw COMMON DOLPHINS, a GRAY WHALE MOTHER AND CALF, and TEN HUMPBACK WHALES, breaching and one that breached multiple times near the boat.

The highlight of this whale watching trip were the gray whales. Our naturalist Megan said that the baby gray whale was tiny, just a newborn! It’s unusual to see this early in the season, and what a sight for our crew and guests!

Humpback whale lunge feeding, showing baleen. Santa Cruz Whale Watching archive photo courtesy Peter Bodin, April 2013.

Happy New Year! Humpback whales remain active in Monterey Bay

Happy New Year! Even in late December the humpback whales are still populous in Monterey Bay. Whales are feeding on krill and anchovies out near Moss Landing and over the deep waters at the Monterey Canyon. We’ve been spotting multiple humpback whales each trip!

Migration: We are also now seeing gray whales heading south to their winter breeding & calving grounds in Baja California. Over 10,000 gray whales will pass through our waters this winter as they make the trek south to Baja then back north again in early spring.


Pacific Gray Whale Migration, Alaska to Baja California – Map

For now in Monterey Bay we continue to enjoy the antics of the lingering – and hungry – humpback whales.

Friday, December 26: We saw about 6 humpback whales and also several gray whales on their southbound migration between Alaska and Baja California.

Saturday, December 27: A terrific lunge feeding event in the middle of Monterey Bay. We counted about 30 humpback whales, with a fair amount of close “drive-bys” for amazing looks at the animals.

Tuesday, December 30: A windy day out there, but wonderful sights of the humpback whales lunge feeding. The animals were feeding particularly close by the boat, giving passengers the opportunity to see lunge feeding from the perfect angles, great views of the whale “tongue” and baleen filters.


Introducing our six passenger boat, Sea Stag Six, also available for private, smaller tours.

Happy New Year from all of us at Santa Cruz Whale Watching! We hope to see you soon on board Velocity, or the Sea Stag Six!

humpback whale breach monterey bay

Winter humpbacks, dolphins and gray whales

Saturday, December 20, 2014: Whale Watching on Velocity we saw 15 humpback whales! The whales were breaching, pec slapping, tail throws… Amazing activity!

Sunday, December 21, 2014: We saw 6 humpback whales and around 200 common dolphins! Clear water allowed to see them under the boat as they rode alongside. Then at the end of the trip a small humpback breached by the boat countless times!

Common Dolphins bow riding alongside Velocity. Monterey Bay, CA Photo: Michael Nelson

Common Dolphins bow riding alongside Velocity. Monterey Bay, CA Photo: Michael Nelson

Tuesday, December 23, 2014: A variety of species today! We saw 4 gray whales and 9 humpback whales. The sun was shining for us today on the 3rd day of winter!

Join us on the beautiful Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – Fully narrated 3-4 hour whale watching trips depart out of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor aboard our 60 foot passenger yacht “Velocity.”


humpback whale winter december santa cruz monterey

Holiday Adventure with Santa Cruz Whale Watching

Join us on Monterey Bay! Whale Watching tours are scheduled for this weekend, Saturday December 20 and Sunday, December 21.  Make it a Holiday Adventure with Santa Cruz Whale Watching! For information and reservations call 831-427-0230 or click here to purchase tickets online!

We are still seeing humpback whales in the Bay, and… Gray whales are here! Gray whale southbound migration is happening now as whales swim southbound through Monterey Bay towards their winter breeding grounds near Baja California.


Happy Holidays will last all year with a Whale Watching Gift Certificate!
Available in any amount, good for trips throughout the year. Order by phone or visit our ticket office and gift shop at 1718 Brommer Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95062. Open 9am – 4pm daily. Call 831-427-0230.


photo 1

December humpback whales all across the Bay

Whale Watching December 7, 2014: Humpback whales all across the Monterey Bay! One frisky breacher, and over 300 common dolphins doing their usual tricks!

Join us! Holiday Whale Watching trips running weekends through December and New Year’s week out of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor. See humpback whales, gray whales, dolphins and more!   FULL SCHEDULE


Great Holiday idea! GIFT CERTIFICATES available in any amount! Good for trips on board Velocity, recipients can use to go on a whale watching trip any time in the future (reservations required). To purchase you can call our shop/ticket office with your credit card # and we’ll mail it to you or you can come by the shop in person.

Phone:  831-427-2334

Open 9am – 4pm, 7 days a week

Humpbacks and Dolphins on Sunday

Sunday, November 23, 2014: We started out with some nice humpback whales closer to Santa Cruz, maybe 3 or so. Then we headed out into the Bay and found a pod of at least 600 common dolphins! They were talking and leaping and bow riding…It was awesome!! And THEN we got to watch 6 humpback whales lunging!

Tomorrow our Thanksgiving Day Whale Watching Trip departs at 9:30 AM. CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS or call 831-427-0230.

Santa Cruz Whale Watching, Monterey Bay, California
Photo: Michael Nelson

Santa Cruz Whale Watching Sightings November 8-11

Santa Cruz Whale Watching Sightings for November 8-11, 2014

Monterey Bay is alive with marine life−humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, birds, even mola-mola! Each day is a little bit different, but always amazing and memorable. Soon we will start looking for gray whales migrating southward from Alaska to Baja California. For now we’ll keep enjoying humpback whales, California sea lions, otters and gorgeous marine birds feeding in the Bay.

Saturday: We spotted 10 humpback whales lunge feeding in the Bay among rafts and rafts of California sea lions hoping to grab a few fish for lunch.

Whales, dolphins, humpbacks, Santa Cruz, Monterey, tours

Santa Cruz Whale Watching, Monterey Bay, California
Photo: Michael Nelson

Sunday: We were delighted to see bottlenose dolphins frolicking in Santa Cruz before we ventured out into the foggy morning. We had to search but found several humpback whales with some
Monday: To start the trip we saw 500 common dolphins just outside the harbor! They swam alongside the boat and were just spectacular to see. We found 10 humpback whales scattered throughout the Bay. One of them breached pretty near to the boat! Also spotted – a big old mola-mola aka sunfish.
Tuesday: Lunge feeding humpback whales just 2-3 miles out from Santa Cruz. We found more whales further out, near the Soquel Hole about half-way between Santa Cruz and Moss Landing. We had great views of common surface behaviors, including head slap. Everyone enjoyed flat calm ocean conditions on Monterey Bay.

Santa Cruz Whale Watching, Monterey Bay, California Photo: Michael Nelson

Santa Cruz Whale Watching, Monterey Bay, California
Photo: Michael Nelson

Gray whales will soon be coming through our waters on their annual migration from Alaska feeding grounds, to their mating and calving grounds off the coast of Baja California. Each year scientists along with dedicated enthusiast take a count of this once-endangered whale species. Gray whale spouts are easily visible from land as they try to stay along the coast line to avoid predators in the open waters. Counting efforts are underway at Big Sur. According to this article, the population of gray whales is rising:

“At their lowest back in the last century, there were probably around 3,000 to 5,000 gray whales. … But they’ve recovered and stabilized at around 20,000.” –Dave Weller, NOAA

Read more about the annual gray whale survey along the California coast.

Here is a link to a comprehensive guide to whale watching with kids along the US west coast, from Washington to Southern California. Read about the many species of whales and dolphins living and thriving in the Pacific Ocean and National Sanctuaries along the Pacific coast.

Whale Watching Monterey Bay with Stagnaro Charter Boats Santa Cruz Whale Watching

Great whale and dolphin show, beautiful ocean conditions

Friday, November 7, 2014: Whale watching today on sparkling autumn waters we had a great whale and dolphin show, beautiful ocean conditions!

Near Moss Landing, we watched 15 humpback whales lunge feeding all afternoon. Surface behaviors including a head slap, and breaching! We had about 5-6 minutes with friendly humpbacks swimming near to the boat.

Another loner juvenile whale was spotted exploring near Pleasure Point.

We got some photos of “Shred” a humpback whale with distinctive injured tail, most likely bitten at by Orcas. We’ve been seeing this guy in the Monterey Bay over spring and summer.


“SHRED” the humpback whale, Monterey Bay, CA. Photo: Michael Nelson

On Wednesday’s trip we had “ride-along” bottlenose dolphins right out of the harbor. A group of 6 dolphins rode the bow with us for about 20 minutes! We traveled out to Moss Landing to see 8-10 whales feeding, tail slaps, breaching. And we saw Risso’s dolphins on the way back in towards Santa Cruz.

santa cruz whale watching monterey bay

Lunge feeding “chomp” Photo: Michael Nelson

santa cruz whale watching monterey bay

Whales very close to the boat! Photo: Michael Nelson

Next trips are Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday – Veteran’s Day. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS NOW

Humpback whale fluke and California Sea Lions feasting, Monterey Bay, November 2013. Photo: Jim Holtan

The whales are still thick from Santa Cruz to Monterey

Monday, November 3, 2014: On Saturday the much-needed rain cleared out so we headed out whale watching! We had lots of humpback whales close to home, only 5 miles out of Santa Cruz! We watched a group of 8 humpbacks surface feeding with a herd of about 200 California sea lions. The feeding pack came right by the boat several times. There were another 6-10 whales also in the area around us. Then we came upon a pod of over 300 common dolphins that swam along with the moving boat for about 20 minutes!

Sunday we had lots of whales that were more spread out through the Monterey Bay. But we saw multiple breaching and tail throwing and all kinds of spectacular surface behaviors this day.

A special treat – We saw a Steller Sea Lion on the mile buoy last week, these guys are massive!

steller sea lion monterey

Steller Sea Lion, Monterey Bay near Santa Cruz. Photo: Michael Nelson

The next Santa Cruz Whale Watching trip is scheduled for Wednesday, November 5 at 12:00 PM.  Flat calm conditions are expected, with the humpback whales and dolphins still actively feeding and frolicking in the Monterey Bay! Our fully-narrated 3-4 hour whale watching trip leaves from The Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor. Trips do go rain or shine! For tickets call 831-205-2380 or purchase online here: TICKETS.

Check out our Zerve Fan Pages to see more great photos from recent Santa Cruz Whale Watching trips on Monterey Bay!

Look! We had an awesome visit from some friendly humpback whales on Friday, October 18!

Here are some neat aerial photos of humpback whales and sea lions near Moss Landing last week.

Orange County – Our neighbors down south have had some amazing and rare sightings over the last month – pilot whales and sperm whales spotted off of Dana Point! If you are down in the southland get out there! Try Captain Dave’s Dolphin Safari or Dana Wharf Whale Watching.

Monterey Bay W.E.T. Rescue Crew, Thank you for your great work! Here’s a big shout out to rescuers from the Whale Entanglement Team this week for helping out a juvenile humpback whale who got its tail caught up in buoy line. For more information on how you can support the Monterey Bay W.E.T. volunteer crew, visit the Monterey Bay Marine Life Studies Facebook page.