Kayak with Humpback Whales in Monterey Bay

Added by Chase Dekker

Using either a kayak or stand-up paddle board, you can get unparalleled views of humpback whales right off the shores of Monterey Bay, California. This is the ultimate way to get up close and personal with some of the world's largest animals.

Disclaimer: Please keep a respectful distance from the whales and other sea wildlife for their protection and your own. Note, changing the animal's natural behavior is a violation of federal law.

Every year, humpbacks whale migrate north from their winter and breeding grounds down in southern Mexicon and Central America to feed in the cold waters of Monterey Bay, California. Even though the whales arrive sometime around March till about November (sometimes they stay all year), they really can only be reached by kayak for a few select months. The best months for this are between early May through mid October when the anchovies are at their most plentiful and the current is pushing them in towards shore.

One of the best spots to start out from shore is from the Moss Landing Harbor. It is an easy place to get to being 15 miles north of Monterey and about 20 miles south of Santa Cruz. Parking is quite easy as there is parking anywhere from the beach to the harbor. The harbor is home to a wide range of wildlife such as sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, bottlenose dolphins, and a wide variety of birds.

Once in the water, head straight out into the bay and generally within a matter of minutes you will be able to see the geyser like blows of the humpback whales. Some days, especially from late August to early October, the whales will be no more than 300 feet from shore, making them extremely easy to get to. Once with the whales, they generally just make fairly short dives and erratic turns, so the best thing to do is to just sit and wait for them to pop up. Never approach the whales as it could not only disturb their feeding behaviors, but could lead to a large fine when a game fish warden sees you! It is very likely that if you spend anywhere from one to two hours out on the water, the humpback whales will approach you anywhere within 1 to 100 feet!

The best time of day to kayak or paddle board out with the whales is early morning when the seas are at their calmest. Most afternoons are choppy with fairly good sized swells, but every day is different so make sure to check the marine forecast before venturing out. The paddle back home is easy as well as the winds are always coming from the West, making the ride home quite relaxing. It is an absolutely exhilarating rush and an encounter that can not be matched!

Other wildlife you might encounter on your kayak adventure:
  • Killer whales
  • Gray whales
  • Blue whales
  • Long-Beaked Common dolphins
  • Risso's dolphins
  • Pacific White-Sided dolphins
  • Elephant seals

Another place that you could launch a kayak from instead of Moss Landing is Mitchell's Cove in Santa Cruz as many humpback whales congregate and feed just off shore from here as well, making it another exceptional spot to kayak with them.

Kayaks can be rented from either Monterey Bay Kayaks or Adventures by the Sea. There are many other spots to rent kayaks or buy used ones for a fairly cheap price. If kayaking is not for you, a stand-up paddle board is another good way to watch the whales.

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Stand Up Paddle
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🥇Top Contributor

27 days ago

stayed on shore

I stayed on shore with a spotting scope, but watching the whales along this stretch of coast is mind blowing, I recommend anyone spend some time relaxing and watching the ocean near Monterey Bay.

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