Skip to Content

12 Best Whale Watching Places in the World

12 Best Whale Watching Places in the World

Anyone who’s ever seen a whale boldly breaching the waves will tell you it’s the experience of a lifetime. There’s something really 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 experience of whale watching is unlike any other, and for travelers around the world, it’s a pilgrimage of sorts.

Here are a few reasons why seeking out the best whale-watching destinations should be important to people who want to go on travel journeys.

  • Seeing the beauty and gentleness that is a whale can be life-changing.
  • It’s an amazing experience to see these creatures in their natural habitat.
  • There are few things more humbling than being in the presence of such majestic creatures.

You probably already know why orca sightings, sei whales, humpbacks, and grey whales are so special. So, let’s just get into these amazing destinations already!

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 a truly spectacular array of 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.

This rich and diverse population is attracted to Kaikoura by the deep underwater canyon that flanks its shores.

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

Kaikoura - New Zealand - Whale Watching Places in the World
Photo: Norbert Rupp

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.

In fact, whales are so common here that many of the 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 whales, minke, and finback whales are regularly spotted gliding through the Atlantic waters around Cape Cod, and every now and then you’ll have the rare sight of a northern right whale with her calf in the spring.

Photo: slack12 Whale Watching Places in the World
Photo: slack12

Hermanus, South Africa

Hermanus - Southern Right Whale jumping
Photo: Willem

If you needed an excuse to visit the Riviera of the South, this is it. Hermanus is located all the way 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.

Already a great tourist destination, the warm, shallow ocean water here attracts southern right whales during the mating and breeding season — May through December.

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.

Hermanus South Africa - Whale Watching Places in the World
Photo: Jono Hey

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. And April through October, the blue Atlantic waters here 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 your 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, there are already a lot of reasons 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.

Every year these long-distance travelers swim 6000 miles from Alaska to the warm lagoons of Los Cabos to mate and raise their calves. Boat tours for whale-watching are plentiful here, and you’ll likely see adults breaching and spouting, and babies at play.

Los Cabos, Mexico
Photo: lecates

Maui, Hawaii

Molokini Crater Maui

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 such as dolphins.

Dominica

bayahibe Dominicana

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 a 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.

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.

There are several companies that 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

The next best place for whale watching is in the San Juan Islands in Washington state, 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 the fact that it’s conveniently located near both Vancouver Islands and the San Juan Islands, it provides easy access to the Pacific Coast no matter where you are coming from.

There are several companies that 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, and they offer some of the best places to spot whales in the world.

San Diego, California

San diego, CA

San Diego is definitely one of the best places to go whale watching in the world. There are many different types of whales that 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 there are many whale-watching tour operators who offer guided tours.

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

Valdes Peninsula, Argentina

Valdes Peninsula

If you want to see some of the world’s most fascinating creatures up close, then a trip to Valdes Peninsula in Argentina is a must. This is one of the best places in the world to see orcas, as well as other whales such as humpback whales and southern right whales.

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

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik Iceland Lighthouse

Go whale watching in Iceland! There are several tour operators who 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 there are more whales 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!

Perce/Tadoussac, Quebec, Canada

Whale swimming

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

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

See Related: Next Vacay vs Scott’s Cheap Flights

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.

calendar with highlighter

With this first point, you still need to determine what whales you want to see. If you want to observe humpback whales, that’s a whole 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.

pointing to the map

There are many great whale watching spots around the world. Choosing the right place for your whale-watching boat tour really 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 go 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.

travel bus

This can’t be stressed enough. Whale watching tours vary greatly in length, price, and amenities. There are many great tour operators offering whale watching tours in the locations listed above.

When choosing a tour, be sure to consider your budget, time constraints, and what type of experience you’re looking for.

4. Be prepared for the weather.

sky cloudy

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

5. Don’t forget your camera.

camera, passport and euros

You’ll want to capture your once-in-a-lifetime whale watching experience, so don’t forget to bring your camera or video recorder.

With these tips in mind, you’re sure to 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. Here, you can often see these majestic creatures breaching the surface and playing in the waves.

Another great spot is Greenland, where humpback whales come to feed in cold waters. If you’re looking for a chance 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 are migrating 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 all throughout Alaska.

Related Resources

Lock In Your Travel Now
Looking for Extra Travel Perks?
My favorite travel companion is The Platinum Card® from American Express, which gives me lounge access, Uber credits, upgrades, and plenty of other travel perks. If you want to find out the best travel rewards credit card for you, consider using CardMatch to instantly get matched to a travel rewards credit card that meets your travel needs.
Booking Flights

Use Skyscanner to book the cheapest flight possible. Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine as you can find flights around the globe and from every airline possible. You'll be in great shape to get the best price possible.

You must grab a free trial or join Scott's Cheap Flights Premium to get cheap flight alerts directly to your email inbox. My favorite cheap flight alert was 25,000 Delta SkyMiles to London non-stop.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It's a low cost way to ensure your travel plans go smooth no matter what's thrown at it. Use World Nomads to find the best policy for your travel schedule.
Book Your Accommodation
In order to capture the widest selection of properties and the best price, use Booking.com as they have the cheapest rates for guesthouses, hotels, luxury condos, B&Bs and so much more.
Want More Destination Ideas Direct to Your Inbox?
Be sure to join the ViaTravelers Newsletter for expert tips, tricks and inspiration for your next travel journey!

Kate

Friday 13th of June 2014

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?!