Your ultimate guide to whale watching along Highway 1 this February

Ready to chase your whale?

World Whale Day is Sunday, February 21, 2021! And lucky for you, Highway 1 is completely open in SLO CAL, with easy routes from San Francisco or Los Angeles.


For centuries, whales have sparked our collective imagination and conjured up larger-than-life lore. In SLO CAL, whales aren't just legendary, they're local. Yes, you can come face-to-face with these magnificent animals when you explore our unique slice of Highway 1 during our Season of Coastal Discovery. From awe-inspiring breaches—when whales literally leap from the ocean with dramatic spray—to fabulous fluking (imagine one of the world's largest animals greeting you with a wave of its massive tail)—SLO CAL's Whale Trail is the place to see it all. Not sure how to go about spotting a Gray, Blue or Humpback whale in its natural environment? No worries! Just follow these key tips for safe and stellar wildlife viewing along the SLO CAL coast.


Dive into our Season of Coastal Discovery

Visit now, when SLO CAL wildlife is at its peak

Sea more:

Now is the time. Explore SLO CAL's wide-open spaces this February and you'll observe more than whales, otters and dolphins. Our Season of Coastal Discovery affords miraculous wildlife sightings around every corner—from glittering tide pools to soaring seabirds and entertaining Elephant Seals sunbathing along Highway 1.

People pointing while whale watching in Morro Bay

Pack now and prepare for whale watching backdropped by stately lighthouses, kayak-friendly waters and breathtaking hiking trails. Plus, you can feel great knowing you took part in our Stewardship Travel for Good itinerary, which allows visitors to connect even deeper with the splendor of local wildlife. Sure, some folks hibernate this time of year. Along Highway 1 on the SLO CAL Coast, the wildlife is as colorful as ever.


Follow the Whale Trail

It's as easy as stopping at SLO CAL's six designated viewing spots


We've done the searching for you:

All you have to do is show up! Ready to spy a massive gray whale along the big blue horizon? Check out SLO CAL's helpful Whale Trail, which lists the best whale watching locations along the coast (luckily for you, there's more than a few to explore). Stop at designated Whale Trail viewing stations in San Simeon, Cambria, Cayucos, Avila Beach, Los Osos and Oceano/Nipomo and see for yourself! Be sure to look for Whale Trail signage boasting fun facts to heighten your experience (some stops even offer up a telescope for easy viewing). How famous are we for world class whale watching? Well, SLO CAL has the most whale watching locations in one county along the entire California coast. Enough said! Want to know even more about whale watching along the West Coast? Click here for a more expansive guide. See ya on the trail!


Be one with the wild

Help keep SLO CAL's habitats happy

Morro Bay Whale Watching

Use your animal instincts:

SLO CAL's scenic miles of Pacific coastline are a sight to behold each winter. Here, whales, otters, Monarch butterflies, dolphins, herons, anemones and starfish enjoy a peaceful life just as nature intended. Follow these handy Wildlife Viewing Tips to ensure that you give our protected wild spaces—and their occupants—the love they deserve.

  • A buffer is best: Keep a healthy distance from wildlife when walking on the shore and boating. Use binoculars for observation.
  • Stay a while: There's no knowing when your whale will appear! Look for whale spouts or blows, tail flukes and dorsal fins. Big splashes may indicate a whale has just breached. If you're in the water, stay 100 yards away from whales, allowing them the space they need. It goes without saying: do not approach or disturb whales in the water. Enjoy from a distance!
  • Good dogs (and owners) always welcomed: We adore your pup! However, be sure to check all signage and don’t allow your dogs to chase birds and wildlife.
  • Pack it in, pack it out: Take any trash with you and dispose of it properly when enjoying SLO CAL’s pristine coastline.
  • Catch wisely: Be sure you understand and adhere to all fishing regulations before you plan to drop a line.
  • Travel for good: Be a Stewardship Traveler for Good when you take part in hands-on activities that leave our habitats happier than they were before.


Bring the right stuff

Pack smart for an awesome day under the SLO CAL sun

Come prepared for the picturesque:

A day spent in sunny SLO CAL is never wasted! Be sure to bring a few extra items to squeeze every last drop of joy from your whale watching experience.


We recommend you bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, water, snacks and a handy pair of binoculars along on your journey. Of course, a camera is always a good idea, especially if you fancy yourself an amateur nature photographer! Our Whale Trail stops located along Highway 1 are positioned along historic piers and lighthouses, rugged outposts and cozy coastal communities. That means no matter where you roam, you should be ready to hike, stroll or simply enjoy the seabirds and refreshing ocean breezes. It's all in a day's fun!


See Highway 1's most stunning sanctuary

Don't miss the southern end of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Believe your eyes:

If you want to experience the majesty of SLO CAL's abundant underwater animal kingdom this winter, you're in luck. The Southern End of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary—Stretching from the Bay Area to the north and concluding along the southernmost seaside alcoves of Ragged Point, San Simeon and Cambria—plays host to playful Pacific white-sided dolphins, fascinating California sea lions, families of sea otters and jaw-dropping gray whales, known for putting on unforgettable displays along the water.

Family overlooking the view of Ragged Point

Plus, there's always new discoveries happening under the deep. In fact, a rare Octopus Garden was recently found off the at the Davidson Seamount, a very special protected marine area bordering the sanctuary. The bottom line? Home to 36 marine mammal species, 180 bird species, 525 fish species, 4 turtle species, and 450+ algae species, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has earned its colorful nickname, “Serengeti of the Sea.”

Share your view with the world!

Let others know how wondrous whale watching (and wildlife viewing) is in SLO CAL

Spread the love:

Share your experiences surrounding World Whale Day! Use hashtag #WorldWhaleDay and tag @highway1discoveryroute and @slocal in your photo from any one of our scenic Whale Trail locations. When you celebrate the mighty whale on social media, you'll help bolster awareness and aid in our ongoing conservation and education efforts! Trust us: The whales thank you. We do too.