11 Best Whale Watching Locations In the World

Something that I really enjoy doing when I travel, is find a good whale watching tour (obviously if I’m not in Arizona or Berlin, or something). Whether it’s your first time going, or your hundredth, there’s something special about connecting with these gentle giants in this unique way.

Peace, tranquility, and time away from a bustling city is more than welcome for most people, and seeing that first whale is simply indescribable. If you want to partake in a seriously cool experience, check out our “best of” whale watching tour locations!


Tenerife whale watching

Tenerife is a magical place and one of the best in the world for spotting dolphins and whales throughout the year! Located right off the coast of Spain, the waters around here stay warm, no matter the season. If you’re looking for a unique excursion, check out these whale watching tours from Tenerife.

Most involve boarding a luxury boat where you can kick back and bask in the sun while enjoying snacks, lunch, and unlimited drinks (hello, Sangria)! You’ll enjoy the Bay of Masca, where you can even go for a dip while waiting for whales and bottlenose dolphins to appear!

The captain and crew are great about spotting critters, and they’ll make sure to make announcements to everyone when they do. Other cruises include touring around Adeje, Santiago del Teide, and Guia de Isora. Some of them take place on catamarans where you can watch sea life underneath the surface!


Not far away, we have the stunning Portugal, also known for its bottlenose dolphins and short-finned pilot whales. However, it’s not uncommon to spot striped dolphins and sperm whales, too. Whale watching tours in Portugal have something for everyone – whether it’s just you and a partner or you’re bringing the entire family along.

Some tours last a brief 1.5 hours, while others are more extensive, lasting around 6. The type of vessel you take typically depends on the climate. For calm conditions, it’ll be a salt galleon, and inclement weather will usually call for a luxury catamaran. No matter what, though, you’re sure to be comfortable.

Depending on the tour you take, you’re likely to have an expert marine biologist on board to give you exciting information about the animals you see. While dolphins and whales are nearly guaranteed, it’s not uncommon to spot other critters, as well! Even if you rather just soak up the sun, you can admire the views of the nearly 2,000-foot Cabo Girão sea cliffs while sipping on a glass of sparkling wine.


iceland whale watching

While Iceland draws visitors from around the world to its volcanoes, black sand beaches, glaciers, and unique architecture, there’s something else it’s great at.

Whale watching.

In fact, the country is not only known as the best place in Europe to see these beautiful animals, but is known as one of the best on the planet! This is largely due to Iceland’s unique location between 2 ocean currents in the North Atlantic. This means that it’s highly-concentrated with krill and fish, making it a dream of a feast for dolphins and whales.

Every year, thousands of these big guys come to feed, and it’s just something you have to do if you’re in the country. Most whale watching tours in Iceland usually take off from Reykjavik, Akureyri, or Húsavík and you’ll have various start times to choose from, making them as convenient as possible.

Some take place on rigid inflatable boats (RIB) for a more intimate and up-close experience, while others set you up and away from the whales on a larger vessel. If you want to get close to the action, RIBs are perfect. If you want luxury and more relaxation, choose the latter.

With specialized guides, they’ll offer live commentary and answer any questions about the marine life as you see them in their natural habitats. You’ll almost always spot dolphins and seals, but there’s a big chance you’ll see the impressive humpback whales and enormous blue whale!

San Diego

San Diego whale watching

When in San Diego, you’ll likely find yourself checking out Legoland, the beach, downtown, and perhaps the zoo. However, if you want the real “hidden gem” adventure, you need to go on one of these San Diego whale watching tours. These tours are simply grade-A, with seemingly every captain and crew member being particularly passionate about what they do.

These last anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, with multiple start times so you can easily fit it into your schedule. If you’re on a budget, a large group tour can be fun and easy on the wallet. There are also private tours that are great for couples or if you’re bringing kids along.

You’re very likely to spot some finback whales, gray whales, seals, sea lions (these guys are everywhere!), dolphins, pelicans, and perhaps even some leopard sharks! Most will even cruise by various naval sites like the Naval Air Station, Point Loma Navy Base, and other points of interest.

We found the tours to be some of the most comfortable we’ve been on, including multiple restrooms, plenty of seating indoor and outdoor, wi-fi, and full 360 views. Most of the tours come with guaranteed whale sightings, as well as guaranteed no-seasickness so you can feel good about your time on the water.


Alaska has a special kind of beauty you can’t find anywhere else, no matter what the season is. Juneau is the best place in this enormous state to whale-watch, with many tours offering guaranteed sightings of humpback whales. Of course, you’ll not only see them but learn a ton about them, thanks to the onboard naturalist and knowledgeable crew.

Aside from humpbacks, it’s possible you’ll catch sight of Dall’s porpoises, orcas, harbor seals, stellar sea lions, and potentially even deer and eagles! We all know Alaska can get pretty cold, so there are both outdoor decks as well as heated cabins, so you’re always comfortable. In fact, these top-notch vessels are some of the most luxurious of any tour of this kind.

These vessels are made specifically with the purpose of whale watching. You see this with the unobstructed, large windows, spacious open decks, and even a hydrophone system for listening to whales!

If you want our opinion, try one of these Juneau whale watching tours that include a combination excursion.

What kind of excursions?

They could include a trip to the legendary Mendenhall Glacier, hiking trails, bear-viewing platforms, salmon-spawning streams, salmon bakes, and much more! If you don’t choose a tour with a salmon bake, do give it a try elsewhere – after all, Alaskan salmon is the world’s healthiest and arguably tastiest!


Maui whale watching

It’s no secret that Hawaii is brimming with life – from lush rainforests to blue waters teeming with aquatic animals. It’s no surprise, then, that Maui is known for its world-class whale watching. In fact, between December and May, thousands of whales migrate to these waters to procreate!

Most Maui whale watching tours last around 3 hours, but those 3 hours are sure to be some of the most exhilarating and educational. They’re fully-loaded, too – you won’t just get an amazing whale watching tour out of it, but a calming boat cruise, buffet lunch, cocktails, and more.

Most have a certified Marine Naturalist on board, who knows all the best spots for located pods of whales. Once you see them, you’ll learn about their behaviors and how they interact with their natural habitat. One of the highlights is undoubtedly using the onboard hydrophones, where you can listen to these beautiful whale songs.

Bringing little ones along?

They’ll love the onboard Junior Naturalist program – who knows, you may just have a little future Marine Biologist on your hands! You’re likely to not only see humpbacks and pilot whales, but even some false killer whales, which are quite rare on a worldwide scale!


Oahu is known as some of the best surfing in the world, but did you know it’s actually the best whale watching destination, too? Just like with Maui, these majestic creatures take refuge in Oahu’s warm waters to give birth and raise their little (big) calves. In order to keep them and the oceans safe, we recommend choosing one of these hand-picked Oahu whale watching tours.

These tours will take you on a spacious catamaran, where you have plenty of space to stretch out and relax while snacking on some chips, cookies, and unlimited soft drinks.

Once the crew spots a pod of whales, they’ll make an announcement on board so everyone can experience them surfacing, tail-slapping, and blowing spouts in the air. In the wintertime, you may even catch sight of an adorable baby or two, swimming close to their mothers!

Dedicated to sustainable tourism, the entire staff are very cautious of not disturbing these amazing animals in their natural environment. However, you’ll get to see a whole lot, and will learn perhaps even more – undoubtedly, the best way to learn about the ocean and its inhabitants!

You’ll be able to spot plenty of humpback whales, dolphins, turtles, and other wildlife, depending on the month you take your tour.

Big Island

Big Island whale watching

Cruising around in a catamaran and witnessing a 40-ton, 40-foot long giant breaching the water is simply an indescribable experience that’ll make you question why you hadn’t gone on a whale watching tour before!

Just like with Maui and Oahu, from December to April or May you’ll have a very high chance of spotting humpbacks! However, you can count on seeing other species year-round, like pilot whales, beaked whales, melon-headed whales, and spinner dolphins.

This island holds 5 of Hawaii’s 11 Marine Life Conservation Districts, which gives just a bit of insight into how important they take local sea critters. These whale watching tours on Big Island reflect that, placing their safety and eco-friendliness first. Whether you’d just like to participate in the whale watching or would like to combine it with another activity like snorkeling, there’s something for everyone.

With plenty of caves and historical sites to see along Kona’s famous coastline, we recommend the latter! However, with a naturalist on-board, you’re sure to see some whales, making it a highlight of any Hawaiian trip. Oh, and if you have kids, try a cruise that includes a waterslide, water toys, and even a high dive built into the boat!

Cabo San Lucas

From December to April (notice a pattern?), thousands of whales migrate from up north in Alaska down to the warm waters of Cabo San Lucas. It may be known for its delicious smoked marlin, fish tacos, and beautiful beaches, but it’s also one of the top locations for spotting whales! With these whale watching tours in Cabo San Lucas, you’ll be able to see humpbacks, grey whales, sea lions, turtles, dolphins, and even manta rays!

Most of the tours take you on a boat made specifically for the purpose of whale watching, with high-suspension seats for your comfort. All include water, soft drinks, and snacks so everyone stays hydrated and feeling good. Some even include a full Mexican traditional breakfast buffet with dishes like chilaquiles, egg and chorizo burritos, fresh fruit, and coffee.

Aside from these big guys, you’ll get to pass by the notable Lover’s Beach and El Arco or “the arch”, which is a favorite lounge area for sea lions. Depending on which tour you take, you’ll be able to hear the whales singing underwater, thanks to their built-in hydrophone system. Some even include an underwater camera system, which is sure to invoke thrills watching these giants get so close to you!


If you plan on going on the tropical whale watching off-season, you’re in luck of seeing these gentle giants in Vancouver. Their ideal whale watching months are the exact opposite: from April to October. You’ll also be able to see some different types of whales: along with humpbacks and grey whales, you’ll be able to see both transient and resident orcas!

Vancouver whale watching tours are a great way to get acquainted with the nautical side of the city. You’ll even get to see the gorgeous Canadian Pacific Islands, including the infamous Victoria.

Some of the tours take off from the city by seaplane, so you can enjoy a breathtaking zoom over the Straits of Georgia and the Gulf Islands Honestly, we’d take this tour for that view, alone! Once you’re in that boat and see your first whale, though, you’ll know you have to take this tour again.

While many whales call this region “home”, you’re likely to catch sight of eagles, seals, porpoises, harbor seals, and in the summer, those cute sea lions. These tours are some of the most comprehensive we’ve experienced, and we really feel you can’t visit Vancouver without going on one while there!


While the first animal you may think of when you hear “Sydney” may be a sea turtle, thanks to an unnamed Disney movie, this city is actually one of the best in the world for spotting whales!

In NSW, you’re likely to see humpback whales, southern right whales, dolphins, orcas, blue whales, minke whales, and sperm whales. Sydney easily has one of the widest varieties of sea life, making it a great place for whale watching tours.

Australians are known for their laidback persona and fun-loving spirit, and it almost seems like the local whales exhibit that behavior, as well. They seem more lively than others, breaching, playing, and generally putting on a show for their “guests”.

Underwater microphones let you listen to their ethereal songs, communicating to others as your onboard crew offers context.

You’ll not only see wildlife, though – cruise by iconic Sydney landmarks like the Sydney Harbor, Opera House, and Harbor Bridge while snacking and sipping!

Robert Baker

Robert is a content writer and editor at World Guides to Travel where he shares his love for the great outdoors. He also writes in-depth travel blogs for other websites around the world. Robert is passionate about the environment and uses his writing to educate people about the advantages and importance of sustainable living. Robert enjoys creative writing. In 2009, his children’s novel Sally Hemings & the Good Associates won the Children’s Fiction section of the You Write On Book of the Year Award.
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