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Gray Whale Watching - Half Moon Bay, CA

Our half day whale watching tours from Half Moon Bay put you in the midst of the annual gray whale migration, one of the world's most magnificent and accessible wildlife spectacles.
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We are currently running whale watching trips out of San Francisco to the Farallon Islands. Our Half Moon Bay season will be back January 2020.

Our highly-rated half-day gray whale watching trips depart from Half Moon Bay on weekends January through April. We are a non-profit organization and have been leading whale watching trips in the Bay Area since 1972!

On each trip you may have the chance to see whales, seals and sea lions, dolphins and porpoises, and seabirds. Our top-notch naturalists will help locate and identify wildlife and provide educational information throughout your trip. Join us to experience the gray whale migration!

The annual gray whale migration is one of the world's most magnificent and accessible wildlife spectacles. Each fall, thousands of gray whales migrate from their summer feeding grounds around Alaska down to the waters of Baja California, Mexico where they breed and calf. In the spring, the whales and their calves migrate back up north for the summer.

Their migration pathway follows closely along the California coast, providing us with outstanding opportunities for coastal whale watching.

Oceanic Society offers gray whale watching from January through April out of Half Moon Bay, California. Our half day whale watching tours from Half Moon Bay last for 3-hours, with departures on Saturdays and Sundays.

Your trip supports ocean conservation

Oceanic Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ocean conservation. Your participation in our whale watching trips helps fund our global ocean conservation programs and local programs including whale entanglement response. Moreover, we use our whale watching cruises as an opportunity to collect photographic identification data on whales, which we share with a network of researchers throughout the eastern Pacific. You can see our recently photographed whales on Happywhale. Learn more about Oceanic Society here.

Photos & Videos

Trip Details

Our gray whale watching cruises are offered most Saturdays and Sundays from January through April, and last approximately 3 hours each. As we look for gray whales and other wildlife, one of our expert naturalists will talk about gray whale biology and the conservation efforts that brought them back from near extinction, and will provide natural history information on other seabird and marine mammal species that we encounter. The trip price is $65 per person (ages 10+).


  • $65 / person (must be 10 years or older to join trip)
  • Groups of 6-9: $60 / person
  • Groups of 10+: $55 / person

For departure dates and current availability, please check our booking calendar.

Trips depart from Pillar Point Yacht Harbor in Half Moon Bay, approximately 1 hour south of San Francisco. Currently scheduled departures are weekends (Saturdays and Sundays only), leaving at 9:00 AM and returning at approximately 12:00 PM.

Approximately 3 hours.

Our itinerary will be flexible, and we generally travel 1-12 miles offshore depending upon the location of the gray whale migration pathway.

Our Coast Guard certified vessel, the 56-foot Salty Lady, has an observation deck, limited indoor seating, and 2 bathrooms. Our captains are experienced in nature cruises and committed to marine conservation.


Warm, layered clothing with a waterproof outer layer is strongly recommended.

Free off-street parking is available at the harbor.

Bring snacks and beverages.

No smoking is allowed on Oceanic Society cruises.

Age minimum 10; an adult must accompany children under 18.

For cancellation policy, refund and reschedule policy, and other important terms, read our detailed Terms and Conditions.

What We See


The focus of our trip is to observe gray whales as they migrate from feeding grounds in Alaska to breeding areas in Mexico, then return back north again to Alaska. We often see gray whale mother and calf pairs (the calves having just been born in Mexico), as well as whales traveling individually or in small pods. We also regularly encounter California sea lions, harbor seals, and harbor porpoises, and occasionally see humpback whales, Dall's porpoises, elephant seals, Steller sea lions, and other species.


We see a wide range of seabirds on every trip. Some of the species we encounter are: Common Loons; Eared Grebes; Western Grebes; Brown Pelicans; Double-crested Cormorants; Brandt's Cormorants; Pelagic Cormorants; Black Scoters; Surf Scoters; White Winged Scoters; Black Oystercatchers; California Gulls; Herring Gulls; Western Gulls; Heerman's Gulls; Common Murres; Pigeon Guillemots; Buller's Shearwaters; Sooty Shearwaters; Red-necked Phalaropes; Cassin's Auklets; Rhinoceros Auklets; Northern Fulmars


Easy whale watching for the whole family. Great experience on this whale watching excursion! Easy for all ages and just enough--not too little or too much. Great staff that knows all about the sea life you will encounter. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
TripAdvisor Member
The staff was very friendly and informative and the crew of the ship was outstanding. I would highly recommend this experience if you can fit it into your schedule. You won't regret it! ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
TripAdvisor Member
Lived in the Bay Area for 10 years, boy have I missed a great experience before. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
TripAdvisor Member
For those who don't want to wait patiently for the action to come to them, catch a ride aboard a whale watching expedition out of Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay [...] Sightings are not guarantees ... but if it's rush hour, the payoff is great.
Weekend Sherpa
The Oceanic Society runs top-notch, naturalist-led, ocean-going weekend boat trips – sometimes to the Farallon Islands – during both whale-migration seasons.
Lonely Planet
On trips out of Pillar Point Harbor, I've seen whales parallel the boat's course for an hour. They can give a tail salute, spy-hop, even breach, with lots of "puff-of-smoke" spouts, as in, "There she blows."
Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle

Recent Sightings

​Half Moon Bay Gray Whale Watching UpdateIn the course of the gray whale migration off the coast of California, there are 2 distinct legs of the journey. Whales begin by heading south, typically from Alaska down to Baja California, and then they make the reverse trip back north. Usually there is some overlap with the earliest gray whales heading north while the late comers have just…Read More →Half Moon Bay Gray Whale Watch Sightings: January 7th, 2018As we boarded the Salty Lady on Sunday afternoon, Captain Jared Davis informed us there had been 3 gray whales and a feeding humpback about 9 miles offshore that morning so we set off for that area in hopes that more whales would come through. This decision paid off as we approached the area and small blows were visible on…Read More →Half Moon Bay Gray Whale Watch Sightings: April 22, 2017Over the past few weeks there have been large groups of humpback whales feeding in Half Moon Bay. It now appears that other whales are being drawn to the area as we witnessed 4 species of whale on Saturday, April 22. Our morning expedition saw a wide range of marine mammals. In addition to 10 foraging humpback…Read More →Half Moon Bay Gray Whale Watch Sightings: March 11, 2017Traveling south out of Pillar Point Harbor, our March 11th whale watch trip began under blue skies. We spent the first 45 minutes trying to locate gray whales on their northern migration, but were not successful. No one knew the spectacular day of whale watching we had ahead of us. At 9:50 am we spotted our first…Read More →Half Moon Bay Gray Whale Watch Sightings: March 4, 2017Saturday, March 4th’s gray whale watching trip departed under scattered clouds and light rain. Fortunately, the rain only lasted five minutes. As we continued on, the skies cleared and conditions became very good for whale watching. About 40 minutes into our trip we explored an area reported to have gray whales earlier in the morning and spotted a lone whale about…Read More →

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