They’re big, they’re beautiful and they swim by here but once a year like clockwork.Every year, as sure as the sun sets and the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, Gray Whales answer a mating call and start a 5,000-mile migration from Alaska as early as September, at about 150 miles a day, toward the warmer waters of Baja, California, where they gather to breed.Talk about long-distance romance!

Every year, my daughters and I go on a whale-watching excursion out of Dana Point in Southern California. It’s one experience I will definitely miss when we move up north. And if you’re ever out this way, it’s a must-see/must-do outing for your whole family.From December to February, we have a rare opportunity to see these elusive beauties as they make their way down the California coastline, then again in March and April, as the conquering heroes return, northbound, to their home in Alaska.It’s an experience you’ll never forget . . . watching a breaching whale glide smoothly above the water’s surface just long enough to let you know who rules the ocean, then plunge to the depths with one flick of its gigantic tale.  It’s a Prudential Life commercial in full, living color. And if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the rare Fin Back and Orca Whales, which have been spotted on occasion.

Although the Gray-Whale-watching season has just ended, you can catch the migration of Blue Whales from June through October.  Blue Whales are the largest animal inhabiting the earth, with some more than 100 feet long. That’s about the length of three school buses!  And the heart of a Blue Whale is the size of a small car, believe it or not!You’ll find a handful of daily whale-watching excursions around Dana Point and Newport Beach. Ticket prices average about $16 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for juniors. It’s a small price to pay for a front-row seat to one of Mother Nature’s longest-running, most astounding shows.Although the whales will be “au naturel,” you’ll want to wear comfortable layers and rubber-soled shoes so you don’t slip on the boat.And of course . . . bring your camera!
 
Whale-Watching Tours

Dana Wharf Sportfishing
34675 Golden Lantern
Dana Point
949.496.5794
www.danawharfsportfishing.com

Dana Island Yachts
34551 Casitas Place
Dana Point
949.248.7400
www.danaislandyachts.com

Davey’s Locker
400 Main Street
Newport Beach
949.673.1434
www.daveyslocker.com

Ocean Institute
24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive
Dana Point
949.496.2274
www.oceaninstitute.org