Gray whale seen from a Santa Barbara whale watching tour

Everything You Need to Know About Santa Barbara Whale Watching

Did you know that the Santa Barbara Channel is home to over 27 different species of whales? Pacific gray whales can be seen here in the winter and spring, and fall brings regular sightings of humpback whales as well as the largest mammal on Earth – the blue whale. You might even be able to spot the shy minke whale, fin whale, and various species of dolphins! With so many majestic creatures swimming through our waters, a Santa Barbara whale watching trip should be on your vacation itinerary. Here are some of our favorite excursions.

Top 5 Santa Barbara Whale Watching Trips

1. Santa Barbara Sailing

If whale watching from the deck of a sailboat is on your bucket list, you’re in luck! This once-in-a-lifetime experience is available on the Double Dolphin, Santa Barbara Sailing’s 50-foot catamaran. Because the boat slips silently through the waves, you can get close to the whales without disturbing them. Whale watching cruises run seven days a week and reservations are required.

2. Condor Express

Another top-notch tour option is the Condor Express, one of the best whale watching/dinner cruises on the West Coast. At 75 feet, this ship can deliver up to 120 passengers to the Santa Barbara Channel’s prime feeding grounds. Feel free to watch from inside the cabin or from the upper-deck seating area.

3. Sunset Kidd

For a smaller, more intimate experience, take a ride on the Sunset Kidd. This 41-foot Out Island Ketch maxes out at just 15 people and has a full bar onboard. Sit back and relax as dolphins, sea lions, seals, birds, and whales stop by to say hello.

4. Celebration Cruises

Celebration Cruises offers unforgettable adventures on their 46-passenger luxury yacht. Whale watching trips are available from mid-February to mid-May, and coastal cruises, private charters, and narrated boat rides are available throughout the year.

5. Captain Jack’s

Interesting in having a closer look at the Channel Islands? Captain Jack’s is the tour for you. This 4.5-hour trip off the Santa Barbara coast offers a spectacular look at blue, humpback, gray and killer whales from the comfort of a 75-foot catamaran. Passengers are welcome to enjoy beer, wine, and snacks while cruising the seas. Cheers!

Stay on Land

If whale watching from a boat isn’t your thing, there’s no need to worry. You’ll find plenty of leisurely trails along Santa Barbara’s scenic bluffs that provide a perfect vantage point to sit and watch for whales. You may even be able to spot them right from Stearns Wharf, a historic landmark known for its shopping, dining, and dramatic views. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

Book Your Stay at the Cheshire Cat Inn

Now that you know about the best Santa Barbara whale watching excursions, it’s time to start planning your trip! Book your stay at our bed and breakfast and enjoy comfortable accommodations, top-notch amenities, and beautiful views right from our inn. We even offer a complimentary wine tasting hour each evening and a delicious homemade breakfast in the morning. So what are you waiting for? Check our availability and make your reservations today!


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Cheshire Cat Inn & Cottages

36 West Valerio Street
Santa Barbara, California
93101 United States
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