Gray whales have the longest known migration of any mammal. They travel 10,000-12,000 miles round trip every year between their winter calving lagoons in the warm waters of Mexico and their summer feeding grounds in the cold Arctic seas.
In the last couple years we have also had gray whales enter the San Francisco Bay to feed on the plentiful anchovy. Each tour will depart Pier 39 in search of whales and wildlife. The route of the tour will depend on the location of the wildlife on any given day. Some tours may explore the SF Bay while others may venture further offshore for a more extensive search.
Possible highlights include:
Gray whale sightings (December-March)
Porpoises, seals, sea lions and abundant sea bird colonies
Views of the Golden Gate Bridge, waterfalls and gorgeous shorelines
Angel Island, Fort Cronkite, Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, Bolinas, Double Point, the Point Reyes National Seashore and Lighthouse
What to Bring
Warm, water-proof clothing (T-shirt, sweatshirt, winter coat, long pants, warm socks and water-proof shoes if possible)
Hats and gloves
Food and beverages of choice with plenty of water
We highly recommend taking a preventative for seasickness such as Dramamine, Bonine, ginger candies, ginger ale and saltine crackers. For those prone to seasickness you may want to consult with your physician for stronger medication options.
What Is Not Included?
Food and beverages are not included on this cruise. Please feel free to bring your own food and beverages with you! Keep in mind that beer and wine are allowed on board, but hard alcohol is not.
Pier 39, just off The Embarcadero (San Francisco, CA)
(Exact meeting location details will be provided immediately upon purchase of tickets.)
What kind of whales and marine life have been sighted recently?
Yes! We are seeing whales! —Join us in the winter months to catch Gray and Humpback whale sightings. October starts our Great White Shark season! Get on the boat! Like us on Facebook for daily sightings reports and exclusive offers! Other marine life include large pods of Risso dolphin and white sided pacific dolphin, numbers as high as 30 in a pod. Marine birds include the tufted puffin a pelagic sea bird and the sooty shearwater, which migrates across the entire Pacific ocean to feed off our shores. Join us on board!
Do I have to purchase tickets in advance?
Advance purchase is required, and trips often sell out quickly. To maximize your chances of getting the day and time you prefer, please buy your tickets well in advance. Tickets can only be purchased with a Visa, Mastercard or American Express.
What if I want tickets for a trip in the future not listed?
If the date you are looking for is further along than our schedule shows, please click on the “Contact SFWhaleTours” link to request a tour on a specific day.
What happens in the event of bad weather?
Trips will continue rain or shine. In the case of severe weather, you will be notified of cancellation and will be allowed to reschedule to another time depending upon availability.
Are children allowed?
Children under 2 and under are considered a “wee one” and are free of charge, but must be included in the reservation. Children between the ages of 3 and 15 have a reduced price ticket and are more than welcome to come along as well!
Is the cruise suitable for pregnant women?
Pregnant women should consult with their doctors before participating in any active activities. For safety reasons, we do not recommend that pregnant women attend. If you have any questions, please click on the “Contact SFWhaleTours” link to discuss further.
Do your trips depart on time?
Yes, our trips do depart promptly! We kindly ask that you arrive 30 minutes early for check-in. Don’t miss the boat!
How far are you from the major airports?
We are approximately 30 minutes from San Francisco and Oakland airports depending on traffic.
Do you guarantee whale sightings on every trip?
Yes! If you don’t see a whale, your next trip is on us.
What kind of whales will I see?
We have seen Grey, Blue, and Humpback whales throughout the year depending on the season. See our sightings report for the most recent sightings.
How close up can we view whales?
We will stop 300 ft. from the whales and let them come to us, following federal whale watching guidelines. We do not touch, swim with, or feed the wildlife.
What happens if I don't see a whale or any dolphins during my trip?
We will try our best to make sure you have a great experience on board with us, but we cannot control where the whales are at any given time. If you don’t see any whales or dolphins during your trip, we kindly invite you to come back again for another trip!
What other marine life should I expect to see?
The other marine and wildlife include: Western Gull, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, Cassin’s Auklet, Tufted Puffin, Black Oystercatcher, Rhinoceros Auklet, Ashy Storm-petrel, Leach’s Storm Petrel, Northern Elephant Seal, Harbor Seal, Steller’s Sea Lion, California Sea Lion, Northern Fur Seal, Dall’s Porpoise, Risso’s Dolphin, Northern Right Whale Dolphin, Orca, and White Sharks.
How far do we have to travel to view whales?
Our destination starts by leaving the SF Bay and entering the Golden Gate Strait just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. From there it will depend on where we find the whales. Every trip is a new exploration to find whales and wildlife.
How long is the trip?
The trip duration is 3-4 hours depending on the weather conditions.
Will I get off of the boat at any point?
No, you will not get off of the boat at any point during this excursion.
Where do the trips end?
The trips end at the same dock which they departed from.
Which boat will I be on?
All trips take place on the 65 foot catamaran Kitty Kat. If the vessel becomes unavailable an equal vessel may be used.
Will I get seasick?
If you are prone to motion sickness, then there are a few great remedies out there to try. Please be prepared and take preventative measures after consulting with a doctor. Keep in mind that this is an intense expedition and the boat WILL stop (but you will NOT get off) which can make for rocky conditions at times. Fortunately, our boat is one of the best out there and its modern technology helps make every trip a great ride.
Are there restrooms on the boat?
Yes, the boat is equipped with a gender neutral restroom for your convenience.
Are the boats safe?
Safety is our number one priority! Our boat meet the current United States Coast guard regulations, and our experienced captain and crew make every effort to ensure a fun and safe adventure.
Are there life jackets on board?
Yes. We carry life jackets on board for all passengers.
Are your boats handicapped accessible?
Unfortunately, there are 4 steps you must take to board the boat, but if you are mobile enough our crew would be glad to assist you onto the boat with the best of their ability. The bathrooms on board are not wheelchair accessible but can be used by a passenger with limited mobility. If you’d like to make a request for any special accommodations, please click on the “Contact SFWhaleTours” link.
Can I smoke on the boat?
No, smoking is not permitted on board.
Are pets allowed on board?
We cannot allow pets on board, with the exception of service animals.
Can I bring my own food and beverages on board?
Yes! Please feel free to bring your own food or non-alcoholic beverages on board. Beer and wine are allowed on board, but hard alcohol is not.
Can I bring alcohol on the cruise?
You may bring beer or wine on the trip, but nothing with a higher alcohol content. Hard liquor is not allowed on board.
How should I dress?
Dress warm and in layers. Waterproof jackets are great and comfortable, sturdy shoes are a must.
Do you offer SFWhaleTours merchandise?
Yes, please click on the “Contact SFWhaleTours” link for more information and merchandise will be provided on board for purchase.
Can I purchase a gift certificate?
Yes, gift certificates make a great gift for any occasion! If you are interested in purchasing a gift certificate, please click “Contact SFWhaleTours” and include the following information: how many tickets you want the gift certificate to be good for, the mailing address you want them sent to, and your phone number so that San Francisco Whale Tours can contact you to process the gift certificate. Thanks!
Do you have translators for non-English speaking people?
Trips are narrated in English, but the scenery is enough to take in even if English isn’t your first language. Click on the “Contact SFWhaleTours” link for private trips if you would like to have a translated trip and we will try to accommodate you.
Can I book a private trip?
Yes, we do offer private charters. To inquire further, please click on the “Contact SFWhaleTours” link for more information.
Non-refundable, cannot be rescheduled.
Once purchased, tickets cannot be refunded and cannot be rescheduled because your space is being guaranteed at the event.
Activity may be cancelled due to severe weather. The activity usually runs in light rain and other moderate weather conditions, but the seller may cancel the activity up to an hour before the start time in the event of severe or unsafe weather conditions. If the seller cancels the event, ticket-holders will be allowed to reschedule tickets (subject to availability) or receive credit for a future event.
Advance Purchase Required
Our tours usually sell out, so book your San Francisco whale watching tour now!