A Guide to Chris’ Whale Watching Tours

Once of the most exciting activities available year-round in Monterey is whale watching. This family-friendly activity is great to see marine life up close and in their natural environment.

As someone who is obsessed with the ocean and marveled by the majestic creatures that roam the waters, I just had to check out this tour. I have gone whale watching in the past, but this was my first time in Monterey.

Admission & Cost

Chris’ Whale Watching has reasonable prices that won’t break your wallet. Tours run $55 for adults and $35 for children under 12 and include 3 hours of whale watching.

Each tour group has a maximum capacity of 28 people and tours run twice a day at 10am and 1:30pm. There are three different boats available for tours including the 68’ Star of Monterey (pictured below), 57’ Check Mate, and 51’ Caroline.

The tours are also dog-friendly so feel free to bring along a furry companion!

Covid Measures: Due to the nature surrounding covid-19, you are required to wear your mask at all times on the boat. Hand sanitizer is provided and a restroom is available on the boat.

Marine Life

Monterey is home is home to abundant marine life including whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals, sea otters, mola mola, and leatherback sea turtles. The area is also home to over 100 species of birds and 375 species of fish.


Whales, of course, are the main attraction on this tour. There are many types of whales you may encounter in the Monterey Bay including gray whales, fin whales, blue whales, humpback whales, orca, and minke whales.

The Humpback Whale is the most common whale found in Monterey from April through November. As I visited in September, this was the kind of whale I encountered on my tour. Check out the video below to see some humpback whales on the move!

A few other whales including the Minke Whale, Beaked Whale, and Fin Whale are occasionally spotted in the bay. There’s a pretty low chance you will encounter these whales on your trip as chances of a sighting are probably less than 10%, even for a whale enthusiast.

If you are curious to see how these whales size up, here’s a great comparison chart from the Smithsonian Institute.

Dolphins & Porpoises

There is a variety of species of dolphins and porpoises you may encounter in the Monterey Bay including pacific white-sided dolphins, risso’s dolphins, northern right whale dolphins, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, harbor porpoises, and dall’s porpoises.

Bottlenose dolphins and harbor porpoises tend to stay closer to the shore. Harbor porpoises are rather small (5-6 feet in length) and are very shy. They tend to stay away from boats so you likely won’t see these on your tour.

As their name suggests, common dolphins are ones that you will likely see on your tour. These are social, fast, and energetic dolphins that often approach boats and ships to bowride for long periods of time. Similarly, pacific white-side dolphins are extremely social and playful, and also one of the most commonly sighted dolphins. They are also often observed “bow riding” and leaping in and out of the waters doing somersaults.

Sea Lions, Seals, & Sea Otters

California sea lions are usually the first animal you will spot on the tours. You will probably see many lounging around the docks at the start of the tour. Further out in the water, you will certainly see more sea lions leaping through the water.

Other Creatures

A few other creatures you may spot on the tour include turtles, jellyfish and mola mola. Monterey Bay is home to leatherback sea turtles. Unfortunately, leatherback sea turtles are extremely endangered and sightings are very rare.

A unique creature you may encounter is the mola mola, or the ocean sunfish. These saucer-shaped, bony fish are commonly sighted in the Monterey Bay lying on their sides at the surface of the water. They usually hang out in very deep water, but come to the surface to attract the attention of birds who will eat the parasites off their bodies. Check out the video below to see a mola mola hanging out by our boat!

The Tour Experience

On the day of the tour, you are told to arrive 30-45 minutes before the start time to ensure you have adequate time to check in and head over to the boarding area.

If you booked online, the check in process is fairly straight forward. You simply give them the name under the reservation and grab one ticket for each member of your party. They will have one person in your group write down their contact information.

After checking in, you can head over to the dock and wait to board. A line usually forms, so I would recommend coming earlier if you have any preference on where you would like to hang out for the duration of the trip. There are several seating areas both in the front and the back of the boat. The front of the boat does get a little rockier at times, so if you tend to get queasy or sea sick, I’d recommend staying in the back. Additionally, if you are traveling with small kids, the back area may be more stable for them and has ample seating.

Once your tour begins, you have 3 hours ahead of you to witness these marvelous marine creatures. Typically, the first 30 minutes will be spent speeding off into the deeper waters and finding a great location abundant with whales. Along the journey, the captain may slow down or stop if there are any marine life sightings.

Want to capture the incredible movements of the whales of video? Here are a few indicators and tips to help gauge timing on when the whales are getting ready to come out!

  • Watch the sea lions and birds. These animals tend to flock around whales, so keeping an eye out for leaping sea lions and seals and birds hovering around an area can give you a good indicator of where a whale will likely surface.
  • Look out for a blow from the spout. When whales are about to surface, you will see them spray water through their spout like a fountain.
  • Double trouble! It is very common that you will see a group of a whales rather than just one. Once you see the spout of a whale, keep an eye out for other spouts nearby. Whales usually spout and dip in an out of the waters several times before taking that longer dive back into the deeper waters.
  • Tails up! When you see a the tail flukes on a whale, this means they’ve descended more deeply onto the waters and won’t be coming back up for several minutes.

We’d love to hear your experiences with Chris’ Whale Watching Tours. Tag @eattravelandrepeat on Instagram on your whale watching post for a chance to be featured!

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