Humpback Whales in San Diego

Megaptera novaeangliae

In San Diego, Humpback whales are both seasonal residents and a migratory species. Humpback whales are one of our favorite species to encounter on our San Diego dolphin and whale watching tours. We typically see the most Humpback whales during their migration in the months of November and December and again in the spring. To know if we have been seeing Humpback whales, follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts where we share our daily sightings reports.

Humpback Whale Info

Description – Humpback whales have a thick, robust body that can be over 50 feet in length and weigh up to 80,000 pounds. They are named for the way they arch their back when they dive, creating a hump. They have the largest pectoral fins of all whales, over 15 feet long. A member of the rorqual whale family, the Humpback has a large mouth with expanding pleated throat grooves that it uses to feed. They are typically black on the dorsal side with white on the ventral. Individual Humpback whales can be identified by the unique coloration on the underside of their tail fin.

Range – Humpback whales can be found in the all the worlds oceans, except the polar seas. There are many sub populations that have specific ranges in which they feed and breed. Humpback whales migrate between cold water summer feeding grounds and tropical breeding areas. There are some Humpback whales seen in San Diego that are part of the California stock that is believed to be about 800 whales. But the majority of the Humpback whales we see in San Diego are typically migrating to and from winter breeding areas in Mexico and Central America.

Behavior – Humpback whales are known as the most acrobatic of all the Great Whales. While in their summer feeding grounds their focus is on feeding to replenishing their blubber for the winter, during the migration they can be much more acrobatic with breaching, tail slapping, tail lunging and other amazing above water displays.

Regionally, Humpbacks are known to adopt unique feeding strategies, even working together in a group. They form long lasting bonds with other whales and are often sighted year after year in the same area.

When diving the Humpback whale often shows its tail, which can be over 10 feet wide. Their twin blow holes create a large bushy exhalation cloud which is one way to distinguish them from a distance.


The Humpback whales we see along the Southern California coast belong to two groups, the Mexican (Threatened) and Central American (Endangered) populations. The main threats to Humpback whales are; entanglement in fishing gear, being struck by a ship and vessel interference.

The team at Oceanic Eco Tours focuses our efforts on reducing these threats by; collecting discarded fishing gear and trash, while operating to not interfere with the whales activity.

We support Humpback whale conservation and research by educating our guests and collecting sightings data and images for Humpback whale conservation programs.