Watching Whales on the Pacific Coast—An Unforgettable Experience

Whale Watching

Witnessing a whale breaching out of the water from a distance is an unforgettable experience, and so is spotting a bottlenose dolphin skimming beside a boat. Whale-Watching on the Pacific Coast, written by environmental educator and Emmy Award-winning documentary film producer Stan Minasian, is an introduction to identifying the whales, killer whales (orcas), dolphins, and porpoises of the US West Coast.

The guide features 22 species in all, and it covers everything from giants like the blue whale and the humpback whale to familiar favorites such as Pacific white-sided dolphins. Better yet, this guide includes information on whale migration, top whale-watching sites on the Pacific Coast, and advice on booking charters. 

Whale-watching cruises along the West Coast coincide with the seasonal appearance of four cetacean species: gray whales, humpback whales, blue whales, and killer whales, which are often called orcas and are the largest members of the dolphin family.

Blue whale blowing (photo @NOAA Fisheries)

While there are a whole host of other cetacean species in these waters that can appear at any time, it is these four that whale-watchers most look forward to seeing. These coastal waters are rich with marine life, from the great whales to a variety of dolphins and porpoises, to some of the rarest of marine mammals, the beaked whales. 

Harbor porpoise (photo @NOAA)

Did you know that, each year, approximately 16,500 gray whales partake in one of the longest migrations of any mammal on Earth? Their 10,000-mile round-trip takes them from the Bering and Chukchi Seas, where they gorge on amphipods (tiny crustaceans), moving south along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California, destined for the warm-water lagoons of Baja California (Mexico). Arriving in these lagoons from December through February, each pregnant female gives birth to a single 17- to 20-foot-long calf, usually every other year. 

Whether you’re on land or aboard a vessel, there are opportunities galore to see and appreciate these incredible animals. 

Breaching humpback (photo @Rui Duarte, Shutterstock)

About the author: Stan Minasian is a writer, lecturer, Emmy Award-winning documentary film producer, and environmental educator. He has written, edited, and produced 16 documentaries on marine mammals and natural history issues, which have been broadcast on the Discovery Channel, Outdoor Life Network, National Geographic TV, Turner Broadcasting Systems, Animal Planet, PBS, and internationally.

Pacific white-sided dolphins (photo @NOAA)

Stan is a marine mammal authority, former member of the US Coast Guard Special Forces, certified diver, and surface and underwater cinematographer. He is the senior author of The World’s Whales: A Complete Illustrated Guide and One Dolphin’s Story: The Life and Times of an Eastern Tropical Pacific Spinner Dolphin.

From his home in the San Francisco Bay Area, Stan has led more than 200 whale-watching trips. His educational website has garnered more than 2.7 million visitors. 

Whale-Watching on the Pacific Coast will be available starting May 7th. Pre-order your copy now. For the latest news about all our books, sign up for our newsletter here. #bewellbeoutdoors

Liliane Opsomer
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