Farallon Islands Whale Watching (May - Nov)

Oceanic Society is a non-profit organization that has been leading whale watching trips in the San Francisco area since 1974. We are an official partner of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, and all proceeds go toward marine conservation.

The 2014 Farallon Islands whale watching season has ended. We are now offering gray whale watching from December - May from Half Moon Bay. Click here for information.


Day trips to see whales, seabirds, sea lions, dolphins, harbor porpoises, and much more.

Offered Saturdays and Sundays from May through November, with departures from San Francisco and Sausalito.

The Farallon Islands, just 27 miles off San Francisco, lie amid the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, a food-rich marine ecosystem that attracts whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and seabirds each summer and fall, to feed and to breed. Researchers have catalogued hundreds of individual humpbacks and blue whales as seasonal feeding residents. 36 species of marine mammals, including 18 species of whales and dolphins, and more than 250,000 nesting seabirds can be found here.

Tufted Puffin, Farallon IslandsThe Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge is the largest seabird rookery in the contiguous United States with nesting Tufted Puffins, Pigeon Guillemots, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres and other species. Migratory seabirds such as Shearwaters, Jaegers, and Phalaropes are also attracted by these nutrient-rich waters. Island beaches are covered with sea lions, including massive Steller sea lions, now on the Endangered Species List.

Each trip is led by an expert naturalist who assists with locating whales, identifying seabirds and other marine life, and who provide informative presentations throughout the trip on the islands and marine ecology of the area.

Read a review of our Farallon Islands trip in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Wildlife Calendar - What We See

Marine mammals are found both in the summer and fall and include Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, and Minke Whales; Risso’s Dolphins, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Northern Right Whale Dolphins; Harbor and Dall’s Porpoises. California and Steller Sea Lions; Northern Elephant Seals, Northern Fur Seals, Harbor Seals, Sea Otters are also possible. 

Spring-Summer (April-Aug): Western Grebes; Black-footed Albatrosses; Northern Fulmars; Pink-footed, Buller’s, Sooty Shearwaters; Ashy Storm-Petrels; Brown Pelicans; Double-crested, Brandt’s, Pelagic Cormorants; Black Oystercatchers; Red-necked, Red Phalaropes; Pomarine, Parasitic Jaegers; South Polar Skuas; Heermann’s, Herring, Western, Sabine’s Gulls; Caspian, Elegant, Common, Arctic, Forster’s Terns; Common Murres; Pigeon Guillemots; Xantus’s, Craveri’s, Marbled (rare) Murrelets; Cassin’s, Rhinoceros Auklets; Tufted PuffinsTufted Puffins and general bird diversity is better in May/June/early July.

Fall (Sep-Nov): Red-throated, Pacific, and Common Loons; Eared, Western, and Clark’s Grebes; Black-footed Albatrosses; Northern Fulmars; Pink-footed, Buller’s, Sooty, and Black-vented Shearwaters; Ashy, and Wilson’s (rare) Storm-Petrels; Brown Pelicans; Double-crested, Brandt’s, and Pelagic Cormorants; Black, Surf, and White-winged Scoters; Black Oystercatchers; Red-necked, and Red Phalaropes; Ruddy Turnstones; Pomarine, and Parasitic Jaegars; South Polar Skuas; Bonaparte’s, Heermann’s, Mew, Ring-billed, California, Herring, Western, Glaucous-winged, and Sabine’s Gulls; Caspian, Elegant, Arctic, and Forster’s Terns; Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets; Peregrine Falcon. 


Full-day whale watching cruises depart from San Francisco at 8:00am, and from Sausalito at 7:15 a.m. aboard the 56-foot Salty Lady, a Coast Guard certified vessel, on Saturdays and Sundays, and select Fridays, from mid-May through November.


San Francisco: Marina Yacht Harbor (7:30 AM) located at 3950 Scott Street, San Francisco (Map). Parking is free, but space is limited. You will return to this dock at 4:00 PM.


Sausalito: Clipper Yacht Harbor, on Harbor Drive. Check-in time is at 6:45 AM, and the boat leaves promptly at 7:00 AM.

Duration: Approximately 8 hours. In order to visit the whale "hotspots," including the Continental Shelf, and have enough time to observe the wildlife at the islands, an 8-hour trip is required.  

Itinerary: Under the Golden Gate Bridge and west to the Farallon Islands. Weather permitting, we visit the Continental Shelf to search for deep water whales.

Vessel: Our Coast Guard certified vessel, the 56' Salty Lady, has an observation deck, limited indoor seating and gender-specific bathrooms. Our captains are experienced in nature cruises and committed to marine conservation.

Passenger maximum: 48.

Clothing: Warm, layered clothing with waterproof outer layer is recommended.

Parking: Parking is free in San Francisco and Sausalito

Food & Refreshments: Bring lunch and beverages.

Smoking policy: No smoking is allowed on Oceanic Society cruises.

Age Restrictions: Age minimum 10; an adult must accompany youths under 15.


Oceanic Society is a non-profit organization, and has been commended by the California State Senate for its public education service through Whale Watching and Farallon Islands programs. In cooperation with Cascadia Research Collective, Oceanic Society sponsors long-term humpback whale research in the Gulf of the Farallones. Since 1972, Oceanic Society has sponsored educational natural history encounters for over 140,000 people. Program revenues benefit environmental education and conservation research.

For recorded information on Oceanic Society's current sightings of wildlife please call the sightings hotline: 415 258-8220





Reserve Your Trip


Trips depart Saturdays & Sundays from San Francisco & Sausalito
2014 RATES: $125.00/person
Discounted group rates available. Please call for more information.



The 2014 Farallon Islands season has ended.

2014 RATES: $125.00/person

Special group rates for 10 or more:  http://www.oceanicsociety.org/whaleGroups-farallons

We reserve the right to increase trip fees if there are exceptional cost increases for fuel. 


Reservations recommended - call our office for availability Monday-Friday 9am-5pm PST (415) 256-9604 or (800) 326-7491.

Whale Watching Gift Vouchers

"BLUE WHALE SIGHTINGS -- One of the single-most spectacular wildlife events of the year off the coast."


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