Southern Californians have the unique opportunity to see whales off the coast all year round. From December through March, gray whales take center stage. And if you want to see some up close, Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching is the outfitter to go with.
During the incredible 5,000-mile migration of the California gray whale from Alaska to Mexico, 40 to 50 whales pass by Dana Point each day, using the Dana Point Headlands’ 200-foot cliffs near the harbor as a landmark to check their migration path. That makes Dana Point a prime spot to go whale watching – and worth the drive from Los Angeles.
What’s a Trip with Dana Wharf Like?
Dana Wharf is the originator of whale watching in Orange County. In fact, they’ve been leading trips out of the harbor since 1971.
A 2-hour cruise aboard the 95-foot Dana Pride includes a fully narrated experience. The ship features a 2-story seating arrangement and can accommodate up to 149 people.
During your trip, you’ll search for whales, dolphins, sea lions, birds and other marine life. The captain will let you know where you’re heading and what you’re seeing, while also sharing about whale migration, feeding and mating habits, and more.
No two trips with Dana Wharf are ever the same. We’ve been lucky enough to see many gray whales and countless common dolphins on our excursions. But more important than that was how friendly and knowledgeable the crew was. We learned a ton about marine animals and our responsibility to make sure we treat them and their environment with care and respect.
Although there is no way to guarantee what you’ll see on your trip, Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching has an offer that’s hard to refuse: “If you don’t see A GOOD SHOWING of whales or dolphin, you will get your ticket back and are invited to come out again with us! These “whale checks” never expire.”
- Make reservations in advance and arrive at least 30 minutes before your departure time.
- No seat on the boat is bad, but we took the advice of one of the crew and grabbed seats with a table on the top of the boat.
- You will likely get up a lot from your seats during the 2-hour excursion, especially when a whale or dolphin is sighted
- There is an inside seating area with a bar and snacks available for purchase.
- There are restrooms available on the boat.
- During the annual Festival of Whales in March, there are lots of extra family friendly activities taking place at Dana Point Harbor.
- 2-hour trips depart multiple times a day
- Trips cost $45 for adults, $25 for children 3 to 12; adult tickets are half price on Tuesdays, specially priced Sunset Trips start in February
- Advanced purchase strongly recommended
- Arrive early for the best seats on the boat (30 to 60 minutes prior to departure)
- Snacks & drinks available for purchase on the boat
- Restrooms available on the boat
- Ample free parking available at Dana Point Harbor
- Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching official site
Day Trip Costs (for a family of 4)
- Whale watching excursion ($45 per adult x 2, $25 per child (ages 3 through 12) x 2 = $140 total)
- Gratuity for ship crew (at your discretion)
- Free parking
- Total: $140 (excluding gratuity)
To save: Specially priced Sunset Trips start in February, and adult tickets are half-price on Tuesdays. There are also special offers available during the Festival of Whales in March. Plus, at the end of your trip with Dana Wharf, they’ll give you a coupon for half off your next trip!
Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching is located at:
34675 Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA 92629
Note: Our longtime supporters and friends at Dana Wharf provided my family with a complimentary trip so I could share my honest review with you. Read my full disclosure policy for more information.