Humpback whales, an acrobatic species well known for displays that include breaching, tail slapping, side rolling, and spy hopping, occur in all oceans. These activities and their widespread occurrence make humpbacks one of the most popular species among whale watchers.
Over the last few years, we’ve visited a variety of sites along the Pacific coast frequented by humpback whales during certain times of the year. If you’re hoping to observe humpback whales on a future trip, the following locations are our top picks along the Pacific coastline.
1. Alaska’s Inside Passage: In the North Pacific, humpback whales migrate from winter breeding grounds near Japan, Hawaii or Mexico to summer feeding grounds, which extend from Washington State to the Chukchi Sea. They may be seen spring, summer, and fall in the chilly Alaskan waters throughout the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska. June and July provide the best opportunities to observe humpbacks bubble-net feeding.
2. Monterey Bay, California: A variety of whale species can be observed all months of the year in Monterey Bay. The central California population of humpback whales migrates from their winter calving and mating areas off Mexico to their summer and fall feeding areas off coastal California, including Monterey Bay from late April to early December. Monterey Bay provides ample food during these months in the form of anchovies, sardines, and krill.
3. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico: Humpback whales are the most frequently seen during whale watching tours in Cabo San Lucas (December through mid-April). Early in the whale watching season, males begin to arrive, followed by pregnant females. Mid-way through the season, females give birth and whale watchers may see we start to young humpbacks feeding to build fat reserves in preparation for their journey back north.
4. Marino Ballena National Park, Costa Rica: Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale season in the world (December to March and July to October). Humpbacks from the northern and southern hemispheres visit Costa Rica’s south Pacific coast making for some of the best whale watching opportunities anywhere. Marino Ballena was created to protect critical breeding areas and to preserve biological communities along the coast.
5. Machalilla National Park, Ecuador: During the months of June to September, adult whales with calves find refuge in Ecuador’s warm coastal waters. The young calves don’t have the extra insulation required to thrive in frigid Antarctic waters of the South Pole. Gregory Kaufman, Founder and President of the Pacific Whale Foundation says “Ecuador is one of the most surprising and impressive whale tourism destinations in the world”.