Whale watching season in San Diego generally runs from December through April and migrating gray whales are the most common species. To see females with their calves, go late in the season as they take their babies back north with them.
With a large kelp forest just offshore that attracts the ocean going mammals, whale watchers do not have to go far. Most whale watching trips around San Diego are reasonably short and some companies guarantee that you can go again for free if you don't see any whales.
The gray whale is a large baleen whale that migrates between feeding and breeding grounds annually. It reaches a length of about 52 ft, a weight of 36 tons and lives 50–70 years.
The common name of the whale comes from the gray patches and white mottling on its dark skin. Gray whales were once called devil fish because of their fighting behavior when being hunted.
The gray whale is distributed in an eastern North Pacific population and a critically endangered western North Pacific (Asian) population. North Atlantic populations were depleted on the European coast before 500 AD and on the American coast around the late 17th to early 18th centuries. However, on May 8, 2010, a sighting of a gray whale was confirmed off the coast of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea, leading some scientists to think they might be repopulating old breeding grounds that have not been used for centuries.
Each October, as the northern ice pushes southward, small groups of eastern gray whales in the eastern Pacific start a two- to three-month, 5,000–6,800 mi trip south. Beginning in the Bering and Chukchi seas and ending in the warm-water lagoons of Mexico's Baja peninsula and the southern Gulf of California, they travel along the west coast of Canada, the United States and Mexico.