People aren’t the only ones who delight in SLO CAL’s pristine coastline; whales do, too! In particular, three species of whale are commonly spied from a boat’s deck or the San Luis Obispo County shoreline: California gray whales, blue whales and humpback whales. (While killer whales are much less common here, they’ve also been spotted, occasionally.) Depending on the species, these whales can be found breaching, blowing and lobtailing in SLO CAL year-round.
Gray whales are the most commonly seen species of whale in San Luis Obispo County. Up to 20,000 gray whales migrate in pods twice annually between Mexico, where they breed and give birth, and Alaska, where they feed. Their migration―between 10,000 and 14,000 miles (16,000 and 22,500 kilometers)―is thought to be the longest of any mammal, and they can be viewed heading south between December and February and north March to May. Less common, but no less visible, the blue whale and humpback whale arrive in April when the water warms each year.
To seek a whale sighting on shore, hit Highway 1 and search the common points in SLO CAL of Avila Beach, Pismo Beach, Shell Beach and Morro Bay; to charter a boat, several companies offer whale-watching tours in Avila Beach and Morro Bay. Don’t forget sunscreen, a windbreaker, your camera, extra batteries and a charger, in case the whales play coy and make you wait!