Best Places for Ethical Whale Watching


Ecotourism, Australia, Central America, Europe, New Zealand, North America, Norway, Oceania, Portugal

Whale watching is amazing, and these are the 21 best places for an ethical whale spotting experience. Find out everything you need to know!

Wildlife encounters are special experiences and whale watching is one of the best of them as you get the chance to see whales (and dolphins) in their natural environment. And if you know what to avoid and which places are the best, you can do it in an ethical way that does not impact the whales in any way, while also learning more about them and their habitat.

If you have always dreamed of whale watching, you will love these locations. During the respective seasons, you are bound to have an amazing and ethical whale spotting experience that will take your breath away as you see the marine giant in their natural habitat.

Best Places for Whale Watching
Whale Watching: Pilot Whales

You might notice that certain famous whale watching destinations are not listed in this article. This was a conscious choice and can be attributed to the fact that I have heard too much from friends that have been there, to be willing to call it an ethical place to go whale spotting without having been there and experienced it myself.

I am sure that there are several ethical whale spotting operators, but it does not feel right to mention certain locations if I cannot guarantee that it is affordable to be ethical and that it is something everyone going there can do in a way that does not harm the whale in any way.

Ethical Whale Watching & Red Flags

Whale watching is amazing, but only if it is done in a way that is ethical. Based on scientific research, there are certain rules that operators have to abide by in order to protect the whales. And while said rules tend to vary a bit based on the specific whale species you want to see, others are valid for every single whale spotting cruise.

Here are some things that are important for an ethical experience:

  • The boat does not approach the whales from the front or from behind.
  • The boat does not get too close to the whales. It is up to the whales if they want to come a bit closer to the boat to say hi. If they do, the boats will instantly turn the motor off.
  • The boat leaves the area if any whale starts showing unusual behavior.
  • The boat does not force interaction.
  • There are never more than 2 boats per whale pod.
  • The cruise also has an educational character so you actually learn something about the whales.
Whale Watching Cruise

Red Flags

There are so many whale watching operators out there, that it can be hard to find the best one in an area. And sadly, some even call themselves an ethical company even tho they violate basic whale encounter rules.

Therefore, the best you can do is to read through reviews on different websites to check if anyone mentions any obvious red flags. And of course, it is also a good idea to check out the companies’ websites.

The biggest red flags are the following:

  • The boat chases the whales, causes them to change their speed or direction, or intentionally positions itself in front of them.
  • The boat intentionally separates groups of whales.
  • The boat steers too close to the whales.
  • The boat stays for a long time. The regulations vary a bit, but in most cases, 45 minutes is the absolute maximum.
  • People are allowed to touch or feed the whales.
  • They say that you are guaranteed to see whales. You want to see wild animals, so there is not 100% certainty that the boat will spot a whale. It might be highly likely, but even in the best spots, there is always a certain chance that you will not see a whale.

Note: Some companies guarantee that you will see a whale, which actually means that you will be able to join additional whale spotting cruises free of charge until you get to see a whale. Therefore, I recommend taking a look at the details of a 100% guarantee if you see it mentioned on their website.

Best Places for Whale Watching in Europe

Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain

Whale watching is one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria and can be done year-round, as different whales visit the island throughout the year. A total of 29 different cetaceans can be seen, and some of them including bottlenose dolphins permanently live in the waters off the island.

Pilot Whales Gran Canaria Whale Watching
Pilot whales off the coast of Gran Canaria

Short-finned pilot whales, which are technically dolphins, are common sights, and you might even see them in a join group with bottlenose dolphins. It is quite an impressive sight to see a large pod of them swimming in front of the cliffs of Gran Canaria.

Between autumn and spring, humpback whales tend to frequent the area,

Spirit of the Seas‘ is the best whale watching cruise operator. Their cruises are ethical and provide you with a lot of information about the animals you see during the cruise. All announcements are in four languages (Spanish, English, German and French). The whale spotting cruises depart the harbor of Puerto Rico and run daily from Monday to Saturday.

Book your dolphin & whale cruise!

There are 2 hours and 3 hours long cruises, whereby the longer cruises on Monday, Wednesday and Friday include a swimming stop near a remote beach.

Azores, Portugal

If you’re looking for the best whale watching destinations in the world, you have to add the Azores Islands in Portugal to your list. Located in the middle of the Atlantic, this Portuguese archipelago is famous for its sweeping green landscapes, crystal clear rock pools, and colorful fishing villages.

The islands are all very different from one another, each with its attractions. While you can see whales from any of the islands, São Miguel, Terceira, and Pico Island are the most popular islands to go whale watching in the Azores since the chances of seeing whales are higher.

The best time to go whale spotting also changes throughout the year depending on the whales you want to see since different whales have different migration patterns. 

For example, you can spot sperm whales at any time of year, although they are most frequently sighted in the summer months (June – August). Sei Whales are spotted more regularly from March to July, as they make their northern migration. That means that whatever time of year you visit the Azores, you’re likely to spot at least one type of whale!

Other whales and animals you might see include fin whales, pilot whales, and dolphins. You will have to join a whale spotting cruise to see them, as the whales tend to be quite far out at sea. In Pico Island, the tours usually set off from Lajes do Pico, whilst in Terceira dey set off from Angra do Heroismo. The whale watching cruises last 2-3 hours and run multiple times a day.

So if you want to see loads of different species of whales, while also enjoying some stunning natural landscapes, the Azores Islands are perfect for you!

By Greta of Greta’s Travels

Husavik, Iceland

Nestled amidst the northern Atlantic and Arctic Oceans sits the small, scenic island of Iceland. It’s here, off the shores of its dramatic and rugged coastlines, that you’ll find the best whale watching in the world.

Icelandic waters contain over 24 species of whale, largely due to the favorable feeding conditions found in its relatively shallow waters and the abundant daylight during Iceland’s notoriously long summer months.

While it’s possible to spot so many remarkable species of whale around Iceland, the renowned northern town of Husavik (also referred to as The Whale Capital of Iceland) most commonly sees a variety of dolphin, minke whale, humpback whale, and the breathtaking yet elusive blue whale.

For the best chance at witnessing one of these magnificent creatures, plan your visit between the months of May through September where tour operators offer daily tours – usually with multiple time slots per day – so you’ll have ample flexibility on what’s sure to be a jam-packed itinerary!

If you find yourself in the Husavik region outside of this modest window, note that the availability of whale watching tours will vary between companies, and some will continue operation as late into the season as December and resume operation again as early as March.

It’s important to shop around for a reputable organization that can boast a decent success rate in locating and showcasing the whales in an ethical way, though there will certainly be no shortage of these amongst Husavik! 

Consider touring with Gentle Giants, who have a firm environmental policy and are regulated by local authorities. Ask your tour guide about their contribution toward sustainable ecotourism, and know that while you’re in one of the best places for whale watching: you’re also in some of the best hands! 

Recommended by Natasha Karcz from Planes, Trains and Karcz

Tromsø, Norway

What makes Norway one of the best places for whale watching is the fact that these gentle giants can be seen all year round – especially on the Vesteralen coast. Aside from Tromso some of the best places to go whale watching in Norway are Lofoten and Bodo.

While the most common whale that tourists tend to get a glimpse of is the sperm whale, there are numerous other species including humpbacks, minke whales, pilot whales, and killer whales.

However, another thing that makes Norway even more special for whale watching is that the biggest whale, the Blue whale, can be spotted in the northernmost region of Norway, the Svalbard islands. These whales tend to visit Norway mostly in summer; some of them tend to hang around for a month or so even before and after summer, so between June, July, and August.

Whale watching tours run consistently throughout summer and tend to trickle down during the shoulder season as the sea slowly gets rougher when winter approaches. During the whale watching tour, you are also bound to spot dolphins as well.

While there are numerous tour operators that run whale watching tours, Magnetic North Travel is one of the best ethical whale watching operators in the region.

Explored by Lavinia from Continent Hop

Whale Watching in the USA

Gloucester, Massachusetts

Gloucester is a beautiful port in Massachusetts and the best to whale watch from because it is located directly between two major whale feeding areas; Stellwagen bank and Jeffrey’s Ledge. This region was also made into a Marine Sanctuary in 1992 due to the importance of the feeding area to the whales. 

Gloucester Whale Watching

Book a tour through 7 Seas Whale Watching. Tours are available spring through fall with 1 to 2 trips daily. On every one of the whale watching trips, there is a professional Marine Biologist/Naturalist to narrate your trip.

Also, the most experienced captains in New England will be guiding your ship where you are 99% guaranteed to see a whale. 

The whales that are spotted in Gloucester are the Fin Whale – most rare as they are an endangered species. Other species you might see are the Minke Whale, and the Humpback Whale. The crew is able to identify the Humpback whale based on the fin markings.

A few things to remember when you go whale watching: bring your camera and a jacket as the weather does tend to be cooler out on the water. If there is a slight chance you will get sick, bring a few bags, mints, and some ginger gum just to be on the safe side.

Experienced by Emily from Dalton’s Destinations 

Big Island, Hawaii

Seeing humpback whales is one of the best things to do on the Big Island. The best time to see the whales is from December to May as they make their way from Alaska. The whales are visiting the warm waters in Hawaii to breed and give birth to their calves. The warm water also has an abundance of food.  

There are deep-sea shelves just off the coast making it easy to find the whales and a variety of other marine mammals. Some other whales you can see are sperm whales, orcas, and melon-headed whales. There are about 15,000 humpback whales that visit Hawaii each year.

If you are trying to spot the whales from shore, the Kohala Coast is a great place to visit, especially in January and February. The whales are the most active in the morning so head over as early as you can. The whales are most commonly spotted on the western side of the island.

When looking for an ethical whale-watching tour group, it is important to select a company that uses boats with minimal noise to not disturb the whales. It is also a lot more educational for you if you book a tour with a naturalist to help you understand conservation.

Explored by Candice, CS Ginger

San Diego, California

San Diego is known to be one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. Honestly, whales can be seen in San Diego all year long. It just depends on what type of whale you may see. However, the most optimal time to see whales is from January to March. Gray Whales tend to be seen during their annual migration in the winter months, but in the summer you will also have the opportunity to see Blue Whales. Other whales that could potentially be seen year-round in San Diego are humpback, Minke, and Fin Whales. 

You do not have to necessarily go on a tour to see whales in San Diego; however, I will say taking a tour will definitely increase your chances of seeing whales. Most tours even offer a free re-visit if you do not see a whale on our adventure.

SD Whale watch is a great company to take a tour with when in San Diego and they offer tours year-round. 

Whale watching San Diego

If you want to see whales off the coastline without taking a tour then head to Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma. This state park is located on a peninsula and actually has a glass-enclosed observatory where you can look for whales from here. You do have to pay $10 to park in this state park, but that would be much more inexpensive than paying for a whole tour. 

Another great and more affordable option would be to go kayaking in San Diego and potentially see a whale! It has happened before and I am sure would happen again. If anything, you will probably see sea turtles and dolphins while out kayaking. 

Book a Kayaking Tour during which you might spot whales

Explored by Chelsey from Chelsey Explores

Pudget Sound, Washington State

Seattle, Washington, and the greater Puget Sound are some of the best places to go whale watching! It’s often referred to as the “American Serengeti” because of the high diversity of marine life present. Because the area is protected from the rough waters of the Pacific Ocean, the Puget Sound is a popular place for whales to congregate, look for food, and mate. From the shore to the sound, there are tons of ways to spot these transient animals as they come through.

Pudget Sound Whale Watching Clipper Cruise

The most popular species to spot near Seattle are orcas and transient orcas, gray whales, and humpback whales. Occasionally there will be Pacific white-sided dolphins and minkes too.

The peak season to go whale watching near Seattle and to see these animals are in the summertime, between June and September. However, there are tours that go year-round, and different marine life are more present and active at different times of the year.

Non-boaters can bring a pair of binoculars to spot them while on the shore of Alki beach, especially during the fall and winter months. To spot them by sea, it’s popular to book a half-day tour on the FRS Clipper, a ferry boat that brings whale watchers through Deception Pass, Fidalgo Island, and the San Juan Islands. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, whale watchers can book a kayaking tour that departs from the San Juan Islands, to potentially get an up-close experience with these majestic animals.

Because whales are under the Endangered Species Act, boats in the Puget Sound (especially tourist vessels) are required to keep a distance of 100-300 yards, depending on the type of whales present. Boats will turn off their motors and keep a distance until they pass, and most tours spend a lot of time on conservation education during the tours. Seattle is a great place to ethically watch whales!

Recommended by Emily from The Mandagies

Best Places to Go Whale Watching in Canada

Northern Vancover Island

Northern Vancouver Island on Canada’s West Coast is a great place to go whale watching since it has a huge marine mammal population but is off the main tourist track. The Johnstone Strait, which runs between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia supports a large population of resident fish-eating orcas (killer whales) and transient mammal-eating orcas. Humpback whales also migrate each summer.

The whale watching season runs from May to October. But the best time to go is from late July to early September when spawning salmon attract lots of resident orcas to the area.

In addition to whale watching, spotting wildlife is one of the best things to do on Northern Vancouver Island. Look for seals, sea lions, and porpoises in the water.

Eagles, great blue herons, and many species of waterbirds are also common. You might even see the endangered marbled murrelet, which nests high in the canopies of old-growth trees near the ocean.

Orca Surfacing Johnstone Strait Canada

You might be able to see whales from shore, but it’s best to go on a whale watching excursion. Boats leave daily from the small towns of Port McNeil and Port Hardy or the village of Telegraph Cove. You can also book combined whale watching and grizzly bear viewing tours. For the most immersive and intimate experience, take a multi-day kayak trip where you’ll paddle with whales and camp on remote islands.

All whale watching companies in Canada must abide by strict regulations to keep distance between whales and boats. They must also approach them from the side, instead of from the front or rear which can disrupt their natural hunting behaviors.

Many local operators on Northern Vancouver Island have wildlife ethics as a top priority. Sea Wolf Aventures is an indigenous-owned company that incorporates traditional knowledge into its tours. At the Water’s Edge Adventures offers eco-conscious multi-day kayak tours with a focus on respectful wildlife sightings. 

Highly recommended by Taryn Eyton from Happiest Outdoors

Hudson Bay, Northern Manitoba

Manitoba may be known as the polar bear capital of the world, but it is also one of the best places for beluga whale watching in the world. A beluga, also known as the white whale, is an Arctic species abundant in the Canadian north. They are one of few species of whales that can swim backward.

Beluga Whale Watching Unsplash
Source: Tangyart via Unsplash

Churchill, a town in northern Manitoba, on the shores of the Hudson Bay, is a perfect place for whale spotting. In the summer, tens of thousands of beluga whales can be found in the Hudson Bay.

And many of them end up in the delta of the Churchill River, making the town of Churchill the best place to go whale watching. Mid-June through mid-August is the best time to visit.

There are no roads to Churchill so the only two ways to get there are by rail or a flight from Winnipeg. It is possible to drive part way from Winnipeg to Thompson, but then it is still necessary to take the train from there to get to Churchill. 

An important thing to keep in mind is that Churchill is in the Subarctic region of Canada. This means that even in the middle of summer, you need to dress in layers including a hat. Summer highs are often below 20°C (65°F).

Belugas are very social, vocal, and curious whales, often approaching boats. For this reason, it is best to see them with an ethical whale watching operator. In Churchill, one such operator is Sea North Tours. They use only beluga-friendly boats to protect these very curious whales. Minimal noise is ideal which makes kayaks and paddleboards the best way to see them.

Contributed by Bea from PackYourBags


Tadoussac is one of Canada’s top destinations for whale watching. It’s home to the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park where 13 species of whales are known to frequent its waters. Visitors have the chance to spot Minke whales, Fin whales, Humpback whales, and more.

And with the chance to see whales almost year-round, it’s a no-brainer why Tadoussac is the official start of Quebec’s Route des Baleines – aka the Whale Route!

Visitors should book a boat tour for the best chance at spotting whales. There are a number of companies that run tours from Tadoussac.

However, a 20-minute drive north of town in Grandes-Bergeronnesis where you’ll find one of the top tour companies in the area. Croisières Essipit is an Indigenous company that runs zodiac tours and will give you the best chance to see whales in the area.

Tadoussac Whale Watching in Canada

Whale Watching in a Zodiac

While the best way to see whales is on a boat tour, there is still a possibility that visitors will see whales from Tadoussac’s shoreline. Head to the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre to learn more about the whales of this area and keep an eye out near the rocky shoreline here as they like to frequent these waters.

The best time to visit Tadoussac is between the months of May to November as only belugas and blue whales tend to tough out the colder temperatures. The summer months offer the most options when it comes to tours, however, visitors can avoid crowds by planning their trip for September and October without sacrificing the chance to see whales. 

Experienced by Lindsay from I’ve Been Bit

Other Whale Watching Destinations in the Americas

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is one of the best places in Mexico, if not the world, to go on a whale watching adventure. This friendly town is located on the Pacific Ocean in western Mexico, where the temperate waters of the Bahia de Banderas – or the Bay of Flags – naturally attract thousands of whales during the months of November to March.

The protected warm waters of the bay are an idyllic place for whales to spend the winter season breeding, giving birth and of course nursing and taking care of their young. 

Whale watching Puerta Vallarta

The most common whale spotting in Puerto Vallarta during whale watching season is the humpback whale. Part of the Rorqual whale family, humpbacks are easily identifiable by a dorsal fin and the grooves that run from their mouths to their bellies.

It is thought that over 2000 humpbacks share the bay during the whale season and their breaching habit makes it easier to spot them.

While there are fewer of them, another type of whale that can be seen around Puerto Vallarta during whale watching season is the gray whale. A bit smaller than humpbacks, gray whales are identified by the gray patches – thus the name – and white mottling on their bodies.

Since they prefer to give birth and nurse in the sheltered lagoons that are found in the bay, it’s not as common to catch a glimpse of gray whales as it is humpbacks. 

Whale in Bay of Banderas

With 62 miles of coastline along the Bay of Banderas, whales can frequently be spotted right from the shore. However, for a guaranteed up-close look, a whale watching tour is the best option. In Puerto Vallarta, organized tours can be purchased at any of the tour kiosks along the famous malecón or at the iconic pier at Los Muertos Beach. Tours can also usually be arranged at resorts and hotels since many of them have partnerships with ethical and trusted tour operators.

During the optimal months, whales are so plentiful, they can be seen from just about any type of water activity or even a tour to las Islas Marietas from Puerto Vallarta or Punta Mita –  located in the neighboring state of Nayarit. That fact alone makes this area of Mexico the best whale watching in the world.

Explored by Lori from Southerner Says

Uvita, Costa Rica

Without a doubt, one of the best places in the entire world for whale watching is in Costa Rica. Specifically, the Pacific Coast with multiple whale watching destinations including places like Nosara, Tamarindo, and of course Uvita.

Uvita, a small city on the Costa Ballena (Whale Coast), is likely the top destination in Costa Rica when it comes to whale watching. For one, you can see whales here almost every month of the year. Humpback whale migration happens from mid-July to mid-November, and then once again from mid-December to mid-April. September and October are the most ideal months. This is also when the annual Whale Festival is held. 

Humpback whale Pacific Coast Costa Rica

From Uvita, you will go on a whale watching tour in Marino Ballena National Park (the National Whale Marine Park). This protected area is a haven for whales and the reason you can see so many whales here.

On a whale spotting tour, you are also likely to see dolphins and sea turtles. Whale watching tours typically cost around $100 USD per person and you will be on a smaller speed boat with around 15-20 other people. 

Luckily, most tour operators in Costa Rica are very ethical as they must follow strict government rules that are in place to protect the whales. The company Bahia Aventuras is known for their ethical practices and high-quality whale and dolphin watching combo tours. 

By Bailey from Costa Rica Travel Life

Peninsula Valdes, Argentina

The Peninsula Valdes in Argentina is one of the best places for whale watching in the world. This Patagonian nature reserve is an important place for the conservation of marine mammals.

It is not only home to a breeding population of the endangered southern right whales, but also elephant seals and sea lions. Because of the big population of these seals, orcas are known to come to the Valdes shores to slide up the beach in order to hunt the seals. However, this phenomenon usually only takes place from the start of August until September when it is mating season for the seals.

Other whale species that can be seen in Peninsula Valdes are the Southern Right Whale, Humpback Whale, and Blue Whales.

The best season to spot these whales is from the beginning of June until December. In August, September, and October sightings are pretty much guaranteed. You might be even lucky and spot whales along the shoreline!

Whale watching Argentina

The best spots in Peninsula Valdes for whale watching are Puerto Madryn, Playa Doradillo and Puerto Piramedes. Whale watching tours depart from Puerto Madryn and Puerto Piramedes.

All of them are ethical since it is forbidden for the tour operators to approach mothers with calves. The captain will shut off the engine once the boat is close to a whale so the passengers can watch in peace and the whale won’t feel frightened. 

Explored by Ilse from Digital Travel Couple

The Best Whale Watching in Australia & New Zealand

Hervey Bay, QLD

The waters near Hervey Bay are a resting area of whales and also where mothers teach their calves essential skills before resuming their journey towards Antarctica. Some whales even spent up to two weeks in the area. Therefore, it is one of the best places for whale watching in Australia.

The town was the first Whale Heritage Site, which marks Hervey Bay as a place where locals respect, celebrate, and protect the whales and their habitat. Therefore, your whale spotting experience is guaranteed to be ethical and educational.

The whale season lasts from mid-July to mid-November, but the whale watching cruises end on October 31, as there are few whales left in early November. ‘Hervey Bay Whale Watch‘ was the first whale watching operator in Australia and runs two whale cruises a day during the season. During said cruises, you are bound to spot several whales in Platypus Bay near K’gari (Fraser Island).

Sydney, NSW

Sydney is a great place for whale watching, as humpback whales frequent the waters off this bustling city from May to November. And as cruises depart Circular Quay, you also get a nice cruise through the famous harbour before you hit the open water.

Humpback whale seen while whale watching in Sydney

Every year, up to 40.000 whales migrate past the city. Hereby, May to August are the time of the northern migration that sees its peak near the end of June and in early July.

Meanwhile, mid-August to November are the months of the southern migration, during which most humpback whales swim in the colder waters further off-shore.

However, mothers with calves that swim past Sydney from October to November tend to swim closer to the coast.

Book a Cruise with Breakfast or Lunch

During a whale watching cruise in Sydney, you also have a good chance of spotting bottlenose dolphins, common Pacific dolphins, and fur seals. In the months of August and September, you also have a small chance of spotting southern right whales and minke whales.

Byron Bay, NSW

Another incredible destination for whale watching in Australia is Byron Bay. Located in the state of New South Wales, it’s known to be one of the best places in the world to observe the yearly migration of 30,000 humpback whales.

Head to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, the furthest point east of the country, to spot whales from the cliffside and soak up the views. Or if you fancy getting up close and personal, book a kayaking tour to sail out into the sunset and catch families of humpback whales surfacing the waves. If you’re lucky, you might even have a pod of dolphins swimming alongside your kayak! It sure is one sight you don’t see every day! 

The best time of year to spot the whales is mid-June, although the first migrating whales can be seen as early as May.

Be sure to book your trip between the months of June and October to guarantee the best possible sightings!

Explored by Jennie Tuck from Jennie Wanders

Exmouth, WA

Throughout the year, Exmouth on the Australian west coast is home to 2 species of cetaceans including false killer whales, pilot whales, pygmy blue whales, killer whales, and dwarf minke whales. Additionally, humpback whales migrate up and down the coast.

In June the humpback whales migrate north towards the sub-tropical waters off the coast off the Pilbara and Kimberley region where they mate and calve, and until late October they return to the south. Hereby, the Ningaloo Coast that includes Exmouth serves as a resting area for the gentle giants.

There are strict governmental rules for whale watching in Western Australia, and all whale watching operators including Exmouth Diving in Exmouth and in the nearby town of Coral Bay abide by them. Therefore, you can do no wrong.

Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura is a small coastal town in New Zealand’s south island and is famous for its abundance of marine life. It is one of the best places in the world for whale watching with a 95% chance of spotting the giant sperm whale.

Sperm whales can be seen in Kaikoura all year round, but many other migrating whales also visit such as humpback whales, pilot whales, blue whales, and southern right whales. 

Out to sea, Kaikoura has a continental shelf that plunges to a depth of almost 1,000 meters below the surface providing deep enough water for marine life to thrive in. There are also warm and cold currents that meet here which lifts nutrients from the seabed making it an inviting place for whales to flourish.

whale in Kaikoura, New Newland
Source: 100% Pure New Zealand

Kaikoura is great for whale watching all year round, however, the best time of the year to view whales in Kaikoura is from June to August when you can also see the migrating whales as well as the sperm whales.

The best way to go whale spotting is by catamaran boat and there are many reputable operators who run twice daily organized tours in Kaikoura. You can also book 30-minute scenic flight tours which orbit around the whales so that you can catch glimpses of them from above!

A great ethical whale watching operator is Whale Watch which has special boats that minimize underwater noise and have onboard facilities that don’t pollute the sea. They are also careful to not disrupt the whales too much and stay a safe distance away.

As well as whales, Kaikoura is also a great place to see fur seals and dolphins!

Explored by Caroline from CKTravels

Unique Places for Whale Watching

Wilhelmenia Bay, Antarctica

Antarctica is home to some of the best whale watching in the world. The untouched landscape and waters make it a safe place for these incredible animals. 

Wilhelmina Bay, affectionately nicknamed “Whale-Mania Bay”, is the place in Antarctica to go whale spotting. The sheer number of whales, especially humpback whales, in the area is unlike anywhere else in the world. You can see over 50 humpback whales feeding and playing in this bay at one time. Minke whales and orcas (also known as killer whales), which are actually dolphins can also be seen in the bay. 

Whale watching in Antarctica

Tourists can visit Antarctica between November and March (the summer months). Hereby, the majority of visitors board a cruise ship from Argentina or Chile to the Antarctic peninsula. Most of those ships include a stop in Wilhelmina Bay just for the whales.

A smaller cruise ship (with less than 500 passengers) can get an even closer look at these gentle giants by taking zodiac boats. The guides in Antarctica are all certified in maintaining a safe distance from wildlife to keep both guests and animals safe. 

The reason for the high population of whales is because of the high population of krill. Krill is the staple food for many types of whales. Humpback whales dive deep (when their tail comes straight out of the water), make a circle of bubbles in order to bring the krill to the surface of the water, then come straight up with their mouth open to feed.

You will have plenty of incredible views of the whales breaching and diving. Therefore, whale watching in Wilhelmina bay is one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do.

Whale watching Antarctica

Recommended by Pam from The Directionally Challenged Traveler

Other Great Whale Spotting Destinations

Hermanus, South Africa

One of the best places for whale watching in the world is Hermanus, South Africa. Hermanus is a prime location for whale spotting because it’s located on a beautiful stretch of coastline which provides easy access to the ocean and its inhabitants.

The water in the bays is shallow enough that you can get quite close to these magnificent creatures without disturbing them or putting them in danger. These factors make Hermanus an ideal destination for people who want to enjoy some time with whales from a safe distance while also being able to observe their behavior closely enough without interfering with it.

Whale Watching in Hermanus South Africa

From June through December, southern right whales gather in the calm waters along the coast to mate and give birth to their calves.

Other whale species also swim in these waters, including humpback whales, Bryde’s whales, and orcas. Dolphins and Cape fur seals will also pop up to say hello.

The best way to experience the southern right whales is by going on a boat tour.

Southern Right Charters offers an incredible and ethical experience. Their guides are knowledgeable about the whales and they’re focused on environmental sensitivity. Be sure to go on the very first charter of the day because there are fewer people which allows you to have an even more magical experience.

If you want to experience Hermanus’ famous whale watching but you’re not keen on roughing it out on the sea, there are plenty of places on land that give you an up-close and personal view of these majestic giants.

One of the best places to do such is Bientang’s Cave. This restaurant and wine bar is situated in a cave right on Walker Bay. Get a table outside and enjoy the view of the whales.

Recommended by Disha of Disha Discovers

Best Places to See Specific Whales

Best Places to see Orcas

Orcas live in all oceans, but the best places to see orcas are areas with colder waters such as Norway, Iceland, Alaska, and Antarctica. However, they can also be found in places like Bremer Bay off the coast of Western Australia.

Despite also being called ‘killer whales”, orcas actually belong to the dolphin family (Delphinidae).

Best Places to see Belugas

The best places to see belugas are the Cunningham Inlet and Hudson Bay in Canada. Each year between June and September respectively 3.000 and up to 60.000 belugas visit the areas.

Best Places to see Blue Whales

The best places to see blue whales in the Northern Hemisphere are Baja California in Mexico and the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada. The best places in the Southern Hemisphere are Chile, the Maldives, and Mirissa in Sri Lanka.

Blue whales are an endangers species and there are only 10K to 25K of them worldwide, so it is well worth it to visit these locations to see blue whales.

Best Places to see Humpback Whales

Humpback whales migrate from tropical areas where they mate and calve to the cold arctic regions where they feed, so they can be found nearly everywhere in the world at different times of the year. The best places to see humpback whales include both coasts of Australia, Iceland, Antarctica, Mexico, South Africa, New Zealand, Hawaii, the contiguous US, and Canada.

Planning a trip?

Check out these useful websites and resources I use to plan my own adventures.

Flights: Kiwi


Rental Cars: Discover Cars

Day Trips & Tours: Get Your Guide, Viator —or— Klook

Travel Insurance: SafetyWing

Airport Lounge Access: Priority Pass

Wanderlust edited

Roundup: The Best Places for Whale Watching

This list includes places for ethical whale watching all around the world, so you will hopefully find one that is not too far away from your home or your next holiday destination. However, it is also well worth it to plan an entirely new trip just so you can go whale watching and spot different kinds of whales. After all, there are many different whales in our oceans, and seeing different whales is truly an amazing experience.

More for Nature Lovers

If you love nature and seeing unique things, you might also be interested in seeing natural wonders:

Stunning Pink Lakes
Bioluminescent Beaches and Bays

Glow Worm Caves

Have you ever Gone whale Watching?

Let me know in the comments down below!

Do you Dream of going whale watching?
Pin these Whale Watching Destinations for later!

Epic Whale Watching Spots
Best Places for Whale Watching

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Steph Kloeckener

I am the founder of A Nomad's Passport and a solo traveling digital nomad, photographer, and writer. Originally from Germany, I have lived in several countries around the world. My goal is to explore every country in the world while promoting ethical and sustainable traveling. And of course to write as many destination guides, itineraries, road trip guides, and content about scuba diving.

A Nomad's Passport is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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