• Jalyn Mayer

Whale Watching with the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach

By Jalyn Mayer, January 18, 2020


Aquarium of the Pacific and Harbor Cruises have joined forces to offer informative whale watching tours that are fun for the whole family.

Photo: Aquarium of the Pacific, Humpback fluke with the Christopher whale watch boat off in the distance

It’s whale-watching season off the shores of Long Beach, CA. Humpback and gray whales, known for their friendliness and acrobatics, are migrating south for the winter season. The Big Magazine was invited to cover this seasonal cruise, and we’ve got the scoop for you.


Photo: Aquarium of the Pacific, Common dolphins blowing bubbles at the surface

M/V La Espada, the specialized high-speed, low-noise, and low-emissions whale watching catamaran, is spacious with comfortable indoor and outdoor seating. James Stewart, the Aquarium’s resident whale expert, provides excellent commentary on how to spot the whales and other wildlife, conservation efforts, and answers any and all passenger questions with ease.


There are a few misconceptions about whales that Stewart covered at the beginning of the tour. For one, sonar is not the best way to find whales. He compares it to someone trying to get your attention by yelling random noises in your direction. Whales don't respond well to noise. The ship AOP uses for whale watching is specially designed to be quiet with a modern engine and specialized rudders to prevent scaring off surrounding whales.


Photo: Aquarium of the Pacific, Risso's dolphin leaping straight up into the air

During the ride, passengers are asked to keep their eyes peeled for any sign of a whale. The three major signs to look for are:


1) a group of birds diving down into a specific area

2) a trail of uneven splashes and

3) whale blows (the blow of a humpback whale is heart-shaped!)


Pollution poses the biggest threat to whales. During our trip, the ship made a special stop to retrieve a deflated balloon that could pose as a choking hazard to marine life. Along with the environmentally-friendly ship, the Aquarium of the Pacific also promotes conservation efforts through their photo identification program in which they record and photograph whale sightings.


Photo: Aquarium of the Pacific, Humpback whale fluke

The Aquarium’s whale watching tour is a treat that everyone can appreciate. Do yourself a favor and book tickets for your family today before the season ends. One tip would be bring Dramamine in case waters are rough or it you tend to get seasick.


Whale watching tours embark daily at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m at Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. The Gray Whale Watch combo ticket is available for purchase on-site at Aquarium and may be purchased in advance by calling (562) 590-3100. Prices are $54.95 per adult ages 12+, $50.95 per senior 62+, and $40.95 per child (includes whale watch and Aquarium admission).


For more information, please visit http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/exhibits/northern_pacific_gallery/whales.